Tunisia: Special Report on Individual Freedoms and Equality

By Anita Estell

International Corner

The north African country may have an opportunity to lead the Arab community on select reforms related to individual freedom and equality.  Human Rights Watch issued a video encouraging the president of Tunisia to enact reforms to secure gender equity in inheritance, revisions in “morality laws,” and other individual freedoms proposed by a commission he appointed. Human Rights Watch released a video formalizing its support of the commission recommendations.

The Commission on Individual Freedoms and Equality, in its report published on June 12, 2018, recommended decriminalizing sodomy and ensuring equality between men and women in inheritance, eliminating “morality” laws, and abolishing the death penalty.

The Director of Human Rights Watch, Amna Buellali, says “This is truly momentous. President Beji Caid Essebsi should seize this opportunity to introduce legislation that would make the human rights advances recommended by his commission the law of the land,”

Source: The Commission on Individual Freedoms and Equality; the president of the Commission Bochra bel Haj Hmida with President Beji Caid Essebsi during the handing of the Commission’s report.

Essebsi created the commission on August 13, 2017, National Women’s Day. He gave the commission the charge of recommending reforms and legislative changes that advance “individual freedoms and equality, deriving from the provisions of the January 27, 2014 Constitution, international human rights standards and new trends in the fields of liberties and equality.” The head of the nine-member commission, Bel Haj Hmida, also is a member of parliament.

It is not clear if and when Essebi and the Tunisian government will formerly approve the recommendations.  Human Rights Watch urges the country to act quickly and provide leadership in an area that warranting greater attention across Arab countries.