Combative but defensive, International Women’s Day had special meaning in Tunisia this year. Fourteen months after the Tunisian uprising, Tunisian women (and defenders of freedom for women) are still debating whether women will benefit from the overthrow of Ben Ali.
Tunisia Live reported from three different perspectives about Tunisia’s liberal Personal Status Code. Representing the view of women from the anti-democratic, banned political party Hizb al-Tahrir:
Nesrine Bouthafi, a member of Hizb Ettahrir, considers CPS to be representative of western ideals and not derived from Islamic Sharia’a. “We condemn CPS. Women in Tunisia are suffering because of this code – it is the source of their pain now,” she stated.
Referring to the increased legal accessibility Tunisian women are afforded in the CPS to the process of filing for divorce, she added that, “Women do not need divorce, but they are rather looking for comfort and peace of mind.”
Leaders.com featured a more combative take of the role of women, who had just finished protesting in front of Tunisia’s parliament:
A March 8 different than any other because this celebration takes place against a backdrop of rising fundamentalism and attempts to call into question the achievements of women. This explains the high turnout of women at the protest outside the Constituent Assembly to support women’s rights, freedom of speech and religious belief and a call to enshrine (these rights) in the new constitution of a civil and democratic state.
More than ever, Tunisian women are the best defense against obscurantism.
Against this backdrop, the Atlantic reports that while women’s rights are under threat in much of the Arab world, there is room for optimism in Tunisia:
Omezzine Khélifa, a Tunisian woman who ran unsuccessfully for parliament with the Ettakatol Party, notes that Tunisia’s Personal Status Code is the most progressive in the Arab world. “Women realize that they have the most to lose if the transition does not go well and, as a result, have continued to be very active in the political process,” she writes. Indeed, Khélifa says that through Tunisia’s progressive electoral law, women captured 27 percent of parliamentary seats in October’s election, and “women’s NGOs played a critical role in pushing the Tunisian government to lift key reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)–the first country in the region to do so.”