Thousands of Tunisians demonstrated in the capital Tunis late Monday for women's rights as the Islamist-led government faces growing dissent, AFP reported. Two demonstrations were held, one authorised and the other not, to demand the withdrawal of a planned article in the constitution backed by the Islamists that refers to "complementarity" and not equality of the sexes. Thousands of people assembled opposite the parliament building in Tunis after the breaking of the Ramadan fast, while several hundred defied a ban to gather on the main city centre Habib Bourguiba Avenue. Another demonstration was attended by about 1,000 people in Sfax, 260 kilometers south of Tunis. The gatherings in Tunis were the biggest by the opposition movement since a banned march was violently broken up on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in April.
In the new article none of these provisions will disappear, but the wording of the raises fears that the ruling islamist Ennahda party is changing the game. The offending article stipulates that the state guarantees "the protection of women's rights... under the principle of complementarity to man within the family and as an associate of man in the development of the country." The wording is seen by many as an Islamist ploy to reverse the principle of gender equality that made Tunisia a beacon of modernity in the Arab world when it was introduced nearly six decades ago.
Feminists concerns are not the only reason for discontent in Tunisia. In Sidi Bouzid, the place where more than one and a half year ago the protests started that led to the fall of president Ben Ali, several protest demonstrations were held demanding the fall of the government, the 'Troïka'as it called since it rests on the support of three parties. The demonstrations were partly in reaction to harsh repression of earlier demonstrations against the high cost of living and lack of jobs.