TUNISIA – Communiqué from Groupe Tawhida Ben Cheikh

In Tunisia, once again religious extremist movements are at the forefront of the scene in the Assembly of the Representatives of the People, to threaten the rights of women and smear with unprecedented violence the image of the “liberated Tunisian woman, always in search of more freedom”. The Tawhida Ben Cheikh Group as well as many others in Tunisian civil society have raised our voices to demand their withdrawal from the Republican Assembly and that they be prosecuted for expressions of violence against women. Our statement on 8 December 2020, was as follows:

On the occasion of 10 December, International Human Rights Day, in response to sexist, misogynistic and discriminatory comments during an intervention by a Deputy of the Tunisian ARP Party, Monsieur El Affes, and his expressions of hatred based on disinformation and inaccuracies concerning the rights of women in general, and their sexual and reproductive rights in particular, and arising from our own belief in the centrality of women’s sexual and reproductive rights at the heart of universal human rights:

  • We denounce these declarations of hatred as contrary to the values of the Republic of Tunisia and to the fight for women’s right to gender equality as stated in the Tunisian Constitution, which affirms in Chapter 21 the right to full equality between women and men.
  • We consider that these retrograde, patriarchal statements are an attempt to undermine the ongoing struggles of Tunisian women and men in defending their rights. We call for the removal of parliamentary immunity for Monsieur El Affes for having committed political violence, as stipulated in Basic Law No. 2017-58, 11 August 2017, on the elimination of violence against women.
  • At the same time, we ask the authorities to give sufficient importance to sexual and reproductive rights, which for ten years now have constantly been under the spotlight and weakened by repeated questioning and the reluctance to consider access to sexual and reproductive health care as essential, including access to safe abortion. We call for increased attention in particular following the second wave of Covid-19, because the measures that have been taken to date to strengthen and protect services for sexual and reproductive healthcare are insufficient to ensure access to continuity of care.
  • We consider it unacceptable for anyone to seek to undo the achievements of Tunisian women. We will continue to mobilise in order to develop and consolidate those achievements and make them accessible for all women, particularly for those in situations of economic, social and physical vulnerability.

SOURCE: Groupe Tawhida Ben Cheikh (en français), E-mail, 15 December 2020