Thu, Nov 15, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Post-Arab Spring, a new feminist revolution awaits

Women are playing an increasing role in the governments of Arab states, but many challenges to achieving equality lay ahead

By Carol Giacomo  /  NY Times News Service, TUNIS

Even in Tunisia, where secularists have a stronger voice and Ennahda has espoused more temperate views than most Islamist parties, women had to take to the streets in protest over efforts by some of the more conservative assembly members to dilute protections for women contained in a 1956 law. The Islamists wanted language in the constitution to say that the roles of men and women are “complementary.” The secularists, fearful of ceding any ground, insisted that men and women should have “the same rights and duties” and added an assurance that the state will guarantee women’s rights.

Ennahda leaders say that the final document will unambiguously endorse gender equality and universal rights. However, until the constitution is formally adopted, no one can be sure.

Still, the Arab Spring has allowed Muslim girls and women to dream big dreams.

“For young girls to now tell me they want to be the future president, minister of defense, these are things I never imagined,” Murabit wrote in an e-mail.

Yet enshrining rights in a constitution and making sure they are carried out are big challenges.

“This is a critical time,” M’barek said. “There are two steps in a revolution: You break it and then you build something new. That’s the hardest.”

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