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The New Arab

Enhancing women's rights, Tunisia still has work to do

Tunisian women are now allowed to travel freely with their children [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 November, 2015

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Analysis: Despite adopting new legislation supporting women's rights, Tunisia still needs to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, Human Rights Watch said yesterday.

Tunisia has taken a step forward in women's rights by allowing women to travel freely with their children, but it still has a way to go to ensure gender equality, said Human Rights Watch yesterday.

On 10 November, Tunisia's parliament adopted a new law that allows women to leave Tunisia with their children without permission from the children's father. There is no such restriction on a father.

"Tunisia's action recognises that women are equal partners in making decisions about their children," said Amna Guellali, HRW's Tunisia researcher.

     Tunisia should follow this important step with measures to end all discrimination against women
- Amna Guellali, HRW

"Tunisia should follow this important step with measures to end all discrimination against women, notably in personal status matters," she added.

Tunisia is one of the few countries in north Africa and the Middle East that has a constitutional obligation to work towards gender parity in elected assemblies, said HRW.

Tunisians adopted a new constitution on 27 January 2015 which has strong protections for women's rights.

According to Article 46, the state guarantees "equality of opportunities between women and men to have access to all levels of responsibility and in all domains".

On 23 April 2014, Tunisia had officially lifted key reservations over the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Before doing so it was able to opt out of certain provisions, including on women's rights within the family, despite having ratified the treaty.

However, Tunisia still maintains discriminatory legislation against women.

According to its personal status code, while a woman can be granted custody of her children, the father remains their legal guardian. Additionally, a women cannot have her children living with her if she remarries, a rule not applicable to men.

"The personal status code still discriminates against women in their families and this needs to change," Guellali said.

"Ending all remaining legal discrimination against women should be a top priority for Tunisia's lawmakers," she added.

Tunisian authorities should ensure that all domestic laws conform to international standards and to eliminate other forms of discrimination against women, said HRW.

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