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UN rights experts encourage Tunisia to follow up lifting of marriage ban with more action on equality


GENEVA (26 September 2017) – Tunisia is being encouraged to do more to tackle discrimination by a group of UN experts* who have welcomed the abolition of a ban on Muslim women marrying men who are not of the same faith.

“Tunisia has now taken a further step towards achieving its constitutional guarantee of equality between women and men,” said the experts in response to the lifting of the ban on 13 September.

Civil servants have been forbidden by administrative circular dating back to 1973 from registering any marriage between a Tunisian woman and a non-Muslim man. However, there was no similar ban for Tunisian men marrying non-Muslim women.

“This discriminatory provision did not only contradict the Tunisian Constitution, but was also in breach of the country’s international human rights obligation under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to ensure equality between men and women, including the same rights for marriage,” said the experts.

“Tunisia has made significant strides in eliminating discrimination against women, with a ground breaking constitution in 2014 which established a rights-based framework for gender equality. These achievements are the result of a long history of women’s activism and government led reforms,” added the experts.

Tunisia has lifted all its reservations under CEDAW and has also enacted a comprehensive law to deal with violence against women, which among other things repealed a statute under which rapists could marry their minor victims to escape prosecution.
The experts welcomed the continuing progress saying: “We strongly encourage the Government to maintain the positive momentum and tackle all remaining discriminatory provisions and practices that deny women equal rights with men. These include matters such as relationships in the family, divorce and custody of children, as well as unequal inheritance law.”


(*) The experts: Mr. Ahmed Shaheed (the Maldives) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016. Mr. Shaheed is a Visiting Professor at Essex University, UK; a former member of the Maldivian presidential Commission Investigating Corruption; and a foreign policy advisor to the President of the Maldives.

The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice was created by the Human Rights Council in 2010 to identify, promote and exchange views, in consultation with States and other actors, on good practices related to the elimination of laws that discriminate against women. The Group is also tasked with developing a dialogue with States and other actors on laws that have a discriminatory impact where women are concerned. The Working Group is composed of five independent experts: the Current Chair-Rapporteur Kamala Chandrakirana (Indonesia), Eleonora Zielinska (Poland), Alda Facio (Costa Rica), Frances Raday (Israel/United Kingdom), and Emna Aouij (Tunisia).

Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, country page: Tunisia

For more information and media requests please contact Ms. Maken Tzeggai (+41 22 9179889 / mtseggai@ohchr.org) and Ms Hannah Wu (+41 22 917 9152 / hwu@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Mr. Bryan Wilson – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / mediaconsultant2@ohchr.org)

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