Tunisia

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Under Tunisia’s first post-independence leader, President Habib Bourguiba, important advances in women’s legal rights and female education were made, unmatched by any other Arab nation.[1] As early as 1956, the government had amended the former family code, banning polygamy and repudiation, promoting consensual marriage and introducing equal divorce proceedings.[2] Further amendments to the personal status code, labour code, and criminal code further strengthened women’s rights in Tunisia. The enrolment of girls in primary and secondary schools was accelerated, and by the 1980s, enrolment rates for both girls and boys were very high.[3] That said advancement in ensuring women’s rights and access to education has not translated into women’s economic empowerment, as women’s participation in the economic sphere remains low.[4]
Reforms to the Personal Status Code, Labour Code, and Penal Code undertaken in 1993 further reinforced women’s social, cultural and political rights in Tunisia. Tunisia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1985, but with reservations to Article 9(2), regarding the right of a woman to pass her nationality to her children; Article 15(4), regarding the right of the woman to choose her own domicile; several paragraphs of Article 16 related to marriage and divorce; and Article 29, regarding arbitration of disputes arising from the convention.[5] All specific reservations were removed in 2014; however the government maintains the right to not take any action that conflicts with Chapter I of the Tunisian Constitution.[6] The Optional Protocol was ratified in 2008.[7]Tunisia has yet to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the rights of women in Africa.[8]
In January 2014, Tunisia’s parliament officially adopted a new constitution. Following critiques on the part of women’s rights advocates in 2012 for language that referred to “complementarity” as opposed to equality between the sexes, the new charter now recognises equality between men and women for the first time.[9]Article 21 of the constitution reads, "All male and female citizens have the same rights and duties. They are equal before the law without discrimination." 
 
[1] Freedom House (2013); CIA (2013) [2] Ben Salem (2010) p.488 [3] Idem [4] UNECA (2009) pp.126, 130, 193; World Bank (n.d.) [5] United Nations Treaty Collection (n.d.); UNICEF (2011) p.1 [6] United Nations Treaty Collection (n.b.) [7] United Nations Treaty Collection (n.d.) [8] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (n.d.) [9] BBC (2014); Freedom House (2013)
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