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Letter to Dr. Mustapha Ben Jaafar, President, National Constituent Assembly

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) in a letter today called on the leader of the Tunisian Constituent Assembly, Dr. Mustapha Ben Jaafar, to protect and support the equal rights of Tunisian women by reconsidering language currently included in the country's new draft constitution that describes women as "complementary to men."

In the letter, Senators Boxer and Isakson wrote, "We share the concerns voiced by Tunisian women and men over the draft language. This language is deeply troubling to many Tunisians who supported their country's transition, but do not want to see the rights of any citizens rolled back, especially women. We urge you to address their concerns and reconsider this harmful language."

Tunisia has a long history of equal citizenship, dating back to the 1950s, and has been a leader on this issue among Arab nations. The draft constitution's language sparked protests by some 6,000 Tunisian women and men who fear that it could reverse decades of progress on women's rights.

The 217-member Constituent Assembly is tasked with drafting Tunisia's new constitution that, once approved, will establish the founding principles for the country's new system of governance.

You can read the letter below:

August 23, 2012

Dr. Mustapha Ben Jaafar
President
National Constituent Assembly
2000 Bardo
Tunis, Tunisia

Dear Dr. Ben Jaafar:

As members of the United States Senate, we write in support of the thousands of Tunisian women and men protesting against draft language in Tunisia's new constitution that describes women as "complementary to men." A core element of any democratic constitution is the equality of all citizens without reservation.

As you know well, Tunisia has a long history of equal citizenship for all. These rights were spelled out in the 1956 Code of Personal Status and enshrined in the 1959 constitution. Ensuring that these rights are reaffirmed as Tunisia continues its transition to democracy is critical to Tunisia's long term security and prosperity.

We share the concerns voiced by Tunisian women and men over the draft language. This language is deeply troubling to many Tunisians who supported their country's transition, but do not want to see the rights of any citizens rolled back, especially women. We urge you to address their concerns and reconsider this harmful language.

We appreciate the Constituent Assembly's respect for process and its commitment to a civil, democratic state. We were also pleased to see that 49 women were elected to serve on the Constituent Assembly. These are tremendous strides and your nation should be proud of the work that has been done thus far. But more must be done to ensure that the equal rights of all Tunisian citizens are protected under the law, without reservation.

As such, we urge you to protect and support the equal rights that Tunisian women have long enjoyed and ensure that Tunisia does not take a step backwards in its progress toward a true and lasting democracy.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer Johnny Isakson


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