The Individual Freedoms and Equality Committee (COLIBE) was formed in 2017 at the request of the President of the Republic, to put forward a number of recommendations about law reform, in matters of individual rights and freedoms, and equality, including gender equality and with regard to inheritance. The Committee is made up of lawmakers, human rights advocates and academics. In its recently issued report, the Committee recommends the decriminalization of homosexuality, abolishing the death penalty, giving women more rights and dismantling patrilineal citizenship and inheritance laws.
As expected, the Report’s recommendations have been criticized, sometimes violently, by Islamist and other conservative forces in Tunisia.
” The change that would include freedoms and rights may affect the beliefs of the majority of people, but it will not affect the beliefs of the individual who exercises a certain act. Everyone is free in their practices. If some freedoms and rights contradict your beliefs then don’t practice them. However, you do not have the right to deprive others of practicing them.” (Salim Al-Lughmani, The Legal Agenda)
However, several representative NGOs and other associations, such as the Tunisian Association for the Defense of University Values, are supporting the Committee and its recommendations. Below is the English Translation of a Statement in French issued by The Tunisian Association for the Defense of University Values, about the Report, stressing the fact that these recommendations are in line with Tunisia’s tradition of reformism and modernization, initiated in the 19th century:
” The Tunisian Association for the Defense of University Values fully appreciates the content of the report drafted by the Committee on Personal Freedoms and Equality at the request of the President following his speech on 13 August 2017 on the occasion of Women’s Day. This report is a historical document in line with the Tunisian reformist and modernist movement (started in the 19th century) that also takes into account religious prescriptions. It proceeds from a rational reflection on heritage. This document has the value and importance of the historic decree that abolished slavery (23 January 1846), the Basic Pact (Ahd El Amen), and the Personal Status Code (August 13, 1956).
The report was build on the provisions of the Constitution of 27 January 2014 while respecting the international conventions guaranteeing individual freedoms and human rights, agreed upon by Tunisia. Its content is a successful attempt to balance Tunisian culture with universal values, rights and freedoms within the Tunisian socio-cultural context marked by tolerance and the desire to be in tune with the times. The report represents the culmination of the feminist movement efforts in favor of gender equality, and to realize the objectives of the 2011 Tunisian Revolution for Dignity and Liberty.
That is why our Association supports this report as part of a ‘civilizational project’, and calls on the President of the Republic to translate it into bills of law for approval by the Assembly of People’s Representatives (the Parliament) as soon as possible. The association also calls on the different components of civil society and the political class to adopt, in response to the proposed report, an approach of constructive dialogue and mutual respect. It urges everyone to avoid launching accusations of heresy, distorting the reality, stigmatizing divergent opinions and all practices unrelated to the defense of ideas and without moral or religious foundation, such as the defamation, stigmatization and attempts at damaging the reputation of the report authors, and recently suffered by some of our colleagues at the university, which dishonor and ultimately harm only their authors.
While thanking the members of the commission for their efforts in the drafting of the report, our Association expresses its support and informs them of our total availability to participate in the intellectual dialogue around the societal topics covered in the document, and denounces the behavior of some leaders in this country who carry out campaigns of falsification and disfigurement of reality, based on lies and misinformation, in order to mount public opinion against the members of the commission and its president, and against the partisans of the progressive ideas expressed in the report.“ (Habib Mellakh, President of the Tunisian Association for the Defense of University Values).
The Maghreb Center