Prior to the revolution, the Tunisian woman was a role model for the women of the Arab region. When the newspapers and TV programs would speak about the rights given to Tunisian women in comparison with other countries, I used to feel proud of this newly independent Tunisian woman. The liberation of women during the first years of Tunisian independence was hard at first hard, given the difficulty in claiming their rights, and even somewhat shocking, considering that hijabs had been banned and polygamy outlawed. Yet, thanks to these activists we have arrived to where we are now.
Though, after the Jasmine Revolution, I felt the threat, especially after the Islamists won the majority of seats in the constituent assembly. We saw a strange new situation unfold in our community, when the separation between men and women started to grow, and the men began to claim their “right” to marry four women. Even some political parties began to play the joker card by defending women’s rights in their electoral campaigns, yet their only motive was to achieve success in the political game. Thus, while we hoped to see women holding sensitive positions in government ministries, nothing had changed! Women still occupied the same roles in the same ministries: the environment, women and tourism.
So yes, the law does protect women’s rights, but can we really say the same thing about reality? Firstly, when looking at the number of women that continue to work in farms and factories without any social security or health insurance coverage, it’s hard to say. Secondly, what about the recent string of verbalized social media attacks on women, where some Tunisian “men” are insulting Tunisian women through name calling as well as blaming them for the increase in youth unemployment, and even going so far as claiming that some of their rights should be eliminated. In my opinion this is a true shame, especially in light of the revolution and all the hard work it has taken for women to obtain this position in the first place. I think that we have a lot of work to do in order to achieve greater equality in the face of the law and our communities, especially if we want our future to be one where granddaughters will experience greater freedom and liberation than their grandmothers.
However, thanks to some associations in Tunisia, there is a demand for greater female presence in the political sphere as well as a desire for women to take not only an active, but also a real role– one that is more than just an image of government such as during the time of past President Ben Ali. These associations require that the next electoral lists must have an equal number of women and men both horizontally, meaning alternately in the same list, and vertically, which denotes that half of the lists must have female leaders.
To better understand the impact that this law will have on Tunisia as well as how to make people, especially women, more aware of the need to push the parliament to pass such legislation, I visited a seminar by an organization called “The Voice of Woman” to discuss this possible law with a variety of different people. The results were shocking. I spoke to women and men, both old and young, and their reaction was split between acceptance and refusal. Some were enthusiastic due to their belief that political-will is essential for women’s rights, while others refuted this idea by claiming that efficiency, not sex, is the standard and that if efficiency is present, there is no reason for a 100% female list.
Surprisingly and unfortunately so, I found that, in addition to some old or shall I say traditional men, there are also women that are equally against the fight for women’s rights! In our discussion, they claimed that besides for matters dealing with childbirth and child-rearing, why should women work and spend time demanding their rights? They asked me where are the men in all of that, just before professing that equality doesn’t mean justice etc. Yet on the other hand, I was relieved to see that younger generations were more open minded. Even though they don’t agree with this law one hundred percent, their arguments were that by this law devote the sexual racism and woman should impose herself and not treat her like a minor.
To conclude, I believe that awareness is extremely important, since it’s clear to see that the first and foremost biggest enemy to women’s rights are women themselves! Thus, without laws, we can’t devote the needed efforts to make the political presence of women, both a cultural standard and reality. This drive has to start within organizations and citizens first, because we can all see that political parties are often nothing more than just slogans in the real world.
Strange in my Home by Maher Rouissi, Tunisia
It seems the Tunisians focus their attention on a precise number of topics.
The following topics: terrorism, homosexuality, and atheism have been used by the media to turn our attention away from problems that we are currently faced with in our country.
Wouldn’t our time best be served to address unemployment? Or, perhaps we need to address the problem of people dying on their way to the hospital because they’re located too far outside the city. Another problem, which needs to be addressed: the colonization of Tunisia’s natural resources from France was never discussed until now.
Tunisia is a Muslim country and it is mentioned in the first article of Tunisia’s constitution, so why does it feel like Muslims have to live like strangers on our land?
Why do we need still need to discuss topics that we should have dealt with from the start?
If you are an atheist and/or gay that should be your right, and others should respect you for who you are. In my country people will shift their focus from actual problems like terrorism, and attack the rights of gays and atheists in order to create a distraction from coming up with solutions to these problems.
Those of minority status inadvertently create a clash between cultures and traditions that already exist. For example, it is hard for some people to accept men who dress up like women who walk around in public. We need to learn to respect those who have a different sexual orientation.
Some Atheists like to impose their beliefs onto Muslims, while not respecting the customs and traditions of the Muslim faith. Respect must remain mutual among those with different beliefs.
Tunisia is a Muslim country and we will continue to teach our children the Quran, and yet still fight terrorism. Those who want to change our traditions and culture will not be respected.