In a victory for human rights, Tunisia has successfully become more democratic than many Western countries have been for years with the recent passage of their historic Constitution, which is being hailed as progressive and monumental. The document guarantees equality between men and women, establishes health care as a human right with preventative care and treatment available for every citizen, protects religious freedom, as well as establishing a more transparent law system with protection from torture.
With a history full of brutal spans of dictatorship, and after two years of arguments and compromises, Tunisians were finally able to establish a Constitution and laying the foundations for a new democracy. The passage of the document is groundbreaking in that it is one of the most progressive Constitutions in the Arab world. The Constitution was approved by a vast majority: 200 votes out of a total pool of 216 seats. This all comes 2 years after the last dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, was overthrown in 2011.
“This constitution, without being perfect, is one of consensus,…This constitution was the dream of Tunisians, this constitution is proof of the revival of the revolution, this constitution creates a democratic civil nation…. We had today a new rendezvous with history to build a democracy founded on rights and equality.” – mentioned assembly speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar after the vote.
Most of the newly established progressive ideals and principles are laid out in Chapter 2 of the constitution, a section titled “Rights and Liberties” in the translation, and in which 29 areas are defined in which the Tunisian state must provide for the betterment of the people — both now and in the future. Focusing extensively on climate change, women’s and workers’ rights, and health care. Security has become one of the most pressing issues in Tunisia as of late, as the country tries to move forward with its democratic transition and rescue its still declining economy, following the demise of the last leader.
Despite the move toward peace, cells of gunmen are still flourishing around the country, smuggling weapons over the Libyan border, running training in camps in the mountains adjacent to the Algerian border and holing up in safe houses in towns. The threat of Islamist militancy is among the new government’s main challenges. Following the overthrow of the previous leader, Tunisians brought in a moderate Islamist party to power with two other secular parties. However, the coalition has struggled in the face of continuing social unrest, high unemployment, and the rise of a radical Islamist movement with ties to Al Qaeda who have already assassinated two left-wing politicians.