Tunisian women rally for preservation of rights - report

by Lisa Anderson | https://twitter.com/LisaAndersonNYC | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 15 August 2011 09:59 GMT

Gathering marked 55th anniversary of the the Personal Status Code,which banned polygamy and mandated gender equality

NEW YORK (TrustLaw)—Fearing that women’s rights may be reversed if political Islam gains strength in post-revolution Tunisia, about 1,000 women rallied in Tunis over the weekend, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.

The gathering on Saturday marked the 55th anniversary of the the Personal Status Code (CSP). Passed on August 13, 1956, by the country's first president, Habib Bourguiba, the CSP was considered a groundbreaking document in the Arab world.

Making no reference to Sharia law – the body of Islamic religious law based primarily on the Islamic holy book, the Koran, as well as the words and actions of the Prophet Mohammad – the CSP banned polygamy and mandated gender equality in the workplace and in courts of law.

At the rally, participants insisted that the rights dictated by the CSP be incorporated into the new Tunisian Constitution, which is expected to be drafted after elections in October.

“We are celebrating the CSP this year," said Ahlem Belhaj, who heads the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD), a women's rights organisation.
But, she said, gender equality in Tunisia is "facing the threat of a loss in the gains" made over previous decades.

On October 23, Tunisians will elect representatives who will draft a new constitution to govern the country following the ouster of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled Tunis on January 14 after a popular uprising.

Banned by the Ben Ali regime and only legalised in March, the Ennahda Islamist movement has considerable popular support. Polls show it could become a strong political force but Ennahda representatives said women's rights groups have nothing to fear from its return to the political field.

(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)

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