By Nadya Khalife
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Tunisia has led the Middle East on women's rights and toppling autocracy. Now women are in line to run for office in equal numbers as men in the first elections. The threat of rollbacks and reversals also lurks.
The laws on inheritance are of particular concern. Women and girls are still not entitled to an equal share of their fathers' and husbands' estates. Brothers get more of the share, and sometimes inheritance can be divided among other relatives, such as male cousins, leaving girls and women with a much smaller amount.
When the women's rights activists drafted their constitutional wish list in March, many people at the time thought their proposals were unrealistic.
But in April, the electoral commission established to draw up rules for the constituent assembly elections, slated to take place on Oct. 23, took a huge step and adopted a gender-parity system for candidate lists for the constituent assembly.
This required political parties to alternate men and women on their lists from top to bottom. The electoral commission can reject a party list that does not adhere to this rule.
For women's rights this is a huge win.
This measure will make it more likely that women will have a significant seat at the table when Tunisia's next constitution is written and will help sets the rules for the presidential and parliamentary elections that will follow.
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Nadya Khalife is a women's rights researcher for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch, Women's Rights Division: