The Tunisian parliament approved on Tuesday evening the country's first law on the elimination of all forms of racism in a provision that many people have been expecting with great anticipation, and which organisations advocating minorities' rights considered as "historical."
The President of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, Masoud Romdhani, told Agence France-Presse that the law "is a turning point in Tunisia, and is as important as the decree of the abolition of slavery."
Tunisia abolished slavery in 1846 during the rule of the Beys before the United States and many Western countries.
بعد أن كانت أول دولة عربية تلغي العبودية، تونس اول بلد عربي يصوت على قانون تجريم العنصرية
— Hajer Ajroudi (@HajerAjroudi) October 10, 2018
After being the first Arab country to abolish slavery, Tunisia has now become the first Arab country to vote for the law on the criminalisation of racism.
The new law sets penalties for racist speech, ranging from one month to one year of imprisonment and a fine of up to 1,000 Tunisian dinars (about 300 Euros).
The law penalises anyone who incites violence, hatred, discrimination and racism, and anyone who disseminates ideas based on racial discrimination, or the "formation, belonging or participation in a group or organisation that explicitly and repeatedly supports racial discrimination, with imprisonment from one to three years and a fine of 1,000 to 3,000 Tunisian dinars (1,000 Euros). The fine can amount to 15,000 Tunisian dinars (about 5,000 Euros)."
Law No. 11/2018 aims at "the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and its manifestations, in order to preserve human dignity and achieve equality between individuals regarding the enjoyment of rights and the fulfilment of duties, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and the international treaties ratified by the Republic of Tunisia."
تونس تصادق على قانون تجريم العنصرية اليوم! هنيئا للمجتمع المدني و كل الاطراف التي نادت بتمرير هذا القانون! هذا القانون صفعة مدوية لثقافة الإنكار التي نعيشها في تونس. الاعتراف هواول خطوات التغيير. https://t.co/rKGt2mVagO
— Afifa (@BentIfriqiya) October 9, 2018
There is a total of 217 MPs in the Tunisian parliament.
Tunisian organisations defending minorities' rights had called for this law, which is considered the first of its kind in Tunisia.
The Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities considered the law as a "historical moment in Tunisia" and pledged to ensure the implementation of its provisions.
Romdhani stressed that "it is a huge step, but much work remains to be done in a society where 10 per cent of dark-skinned Tunisians and sub-Saharan Africans suffer abuse and sometimes severe violence."
He continued: "There is now approval of the penalisation, but respect must also be disseminated through education."