Thousands rally in Tunisia for women's rights

Mon Aug 13, 2012 7:27pm EDT
 
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By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) - Thousands of Tunisians rallied on Monday to protest against what they see as a push by the Islamist-led government for constitutional changes that would degrade women's status in one of the Arab world's most liberal nations.

The protest, by some 6,000 mostly Tunisian women, is the latest twist in a row over the role of Islam in a constitution being drawn up by a new assembly.

Tunisia's ruling Ennahda Movement is under pressure from both hardline Salafi Muslims, calling for the introduction of Islamic law, and secular opposition parties.

Activists are not happy with a stipulation in a draft of the constitution that considers women to be "complementary to men" and want a pioneering 1956 law that grant women full equality with men to remain in place.

The protesters marched across main thoroughfares in the capital Tunis to demand that the government, led since October by Islamist moderates Ennahda, turn its attention instead to basic issues such as unemployment and regional development.

They carried banners that read "Rise up women for your rights to be enshrined in the constitution" and "Ghannouchi clear off, Tunisian women are strong", referring to Ennahda's leader Rachid Ghannouchi.

Sami Layouni, 40, was among a minority of men attending the protest. "We are here to support women and to say there are men who stand for women's rights," he said, carrying a placard that said: "A woman is no complement, she is everything".

"We are proud of Tunisian women ... and we will not let Islamists turn our spring into a winter," he said.   Continued...