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Tunisian president calls for full gender equality

Tunisian women pose for a photo as they gather to celebrate Women's Day in Tunis, Tunisia on 13 August 2017 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi has said that his country will continue to promote full gender equality, including with regard to the issue of inheritance. He made his comments on Sunday during an event at the Presidential Palace in Carthage on the occasion of Women’s Day. The audience included members of the government and parliament as well as representatives of civil society groups.

“The State is committed to achieving full equality between women and men,” he insisted, “and to ensuring equal opportunities for them in assuming all responsibilities, as stipulated in Article 46 of the Constitution.”

In his opinion, said Essebsi, equality in inheritance can be promoted between women and men. “Today a committee of jurists, both men and women, has been assigned to study this issue.” The president added that he has confidence in the intelligence of the jurists to find legal formulas to avoid hurting Tunisians’ feelings.

“We will not go through reforms that could shock the people, who are mostly Muslim, but we are moving towards equality in all fields. We are convinced that the Tunisian legal mind will find appropriate formulas that do not conflict with religion and its purposes, or with the Constitution and its principles, towards full equality.”

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The Tunisian leader reminded the audience that there are 75 women MPs among the 217 in parliament, and they have made significant contributions to the country’s legislation.

“Women represent 60 per cent of those working in the medical sector,” continued Essebsi, “35 per cent in engineering, 41 per cent in the judiciary, 43 per cent in law and 60 per cent in higher education. Additionally, civil society is primarily based on the participation of women.”

In 2016, 27 deputies from various parliamentary blocs submitted a legislative initiative to determine the inheritance system, which included three items and recognised equality of inheritance between women and men. The initiative was opposed strongly in parliament and discussions have been stalled for months without any justification.

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