This article attempts to glean from field interviews and secondary sources some of the sociopolitical complexities that underlay women’s engagement in Tunisia’s 2011-14 constitution-making process. Elucidating such complexities can provide further insight into how women’s engagement impacted the substance and enforceability of the constitution’s final text. We argue that, in spite of longstanding roadblocks to implement and enforce constitutional guarantees, the greater involvement of Tunisian women in the constitution drafting process did make a difference in the final gender provisions of Tunisia’s constitution. Although not all recommendations were adopted, Tunisian women were able to use an autochthonous process to edify the country and set the foundation for greater rights consciousness.
This article also seeks to define the degree and nature of external influence on national efforts to advance women’s rights and on the drafting of Tunisia’s gender provisions. Although our research suggests that international forces had less of an impact on the Tunisian constitution-making process than we had assumed initially, we also found that many Tunisian women still saw themselves as part of a transnational women’s movement in which they were able to engage with a broad network of international women’s groups and transnational stakeholders. Our conclusion, thus, is that the Tunisian constitutional project, at least in regards to its gender provisions, can be regarded as intermestic in the sense that it drew directly or indirectly from both local and transnational sources. This shows that even when drafters are able to create constitutions that fit local contexts, they are still deeply influenced by international human rights provisions and relevant structural frameworks.
Finally, this article summarizes some of the early efforts to translate constitutional guarantees into enforceable legislation. While we have deemed Tunisia’s drafting process as a success in participatory constitution-making, the country has a considerable way to go to ensure that “equal opportunities for men and women” as guaranteed in its new constitution become a reality for Tunisians in their daily modes of existence.
de Silva de Alwis, Rangita; Mnasri, Anware; and Ward, Estee, "Women and the Making of the Tunisian Constitution" (2017). Faculty Scholarship. 1756.
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