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Tunisia's women fight to keep 50 years of equality

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Tunisia's women fight to keep 50 years of equality
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Before the Arab Spring Tunisia was one of the most liberal of the Arab nations.

Now women are marching to make sure it stays that way for them.

Some 6,000 gathered in Tunis to protest at what they say are constitutional changes being made by the Islamist-led government, notably a proposed phrase saying women are “complementary “ to men.

“Our goal is to show that women are not complementary to men because they are independent and equal to men. We’re here to show that we’re also hard-working citizens and we’ll never accept being considered complementary to men,” said one of the marchers.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has expressed his support for reaffirming in the new constitution a male-female equality principle as enshrined in a 1956 law.

“I was looking for the word ‘total equality’ in the constitutional project that was submitted to me and which I consider as necessary. I found ‘equal’ but not ‘totally equal’ and I would prefer to add the word ‘totally’ to avoid any ambiguity,” he said on Monday.

The strength of feeling was visible in the Tunisian capital, but women are just one of a host of issues facing a nation that is engaged in a political redrawing of the map pitting moderates against hardliners, the secular against the religious, and all to a steady drumbeat of rising unemployment and regional poverty.