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UN calls on Tunisia to ensure women's rights in new constitution

The UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice [official website] on Monday called on the government of Tunisia [OHCHR country profile] to adopt stronger constitutional measures to combat gender inequality [press release] and discrimination, while accelerating the participation of women in all aspects of society. The working group stated that it "remains concerned at the persistence of loopholes and ambiguities which, if not removed, might undermine the protection of women's rights and the principle of gender equality." While the working group has recognized the value of the new constitution in correcting gross inequalities and advancing the important virtues of justice, democracy and human rights, the group expressed concerns that the second draft failed to include clauses prohibiting discrimination, including on the grounds of sex. The UN group voiced its disapproval of the lack of constitutional mechanisms to monitor compliance with measures to eliminate discrimination and inequality affecting women in Tunisia. In particular, the working group called on Tunisian officials, at all levels of government to work to reach out to rural women, to increase there capacity to participate fully in the political and social life of the nation, citing their key role in historic reform the country has been undergoing.

Tunisia has faced political turmoil since former president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] left office amid nationwide protests in 2011. In August the same UN Working Group urged [JURIST report] the government of Tunisia to ensure that women's rights are protected in line with the nation's international human rights obligations. Last month, the same UN Working Group expressed similar concern [JURIST report] over Egypt's, then draft, constitution [text, PDF], stating that, "women's perspectives were grossly under-represented in the final draft." The working group expressed concern that equality between the sexes is not among the draft's substantive provisions and urged further critical review.

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