Afternoon Roundup: Is Tunisia An Equal Rights Middle East Mecca for Women and Girls?


Is Tunisia a mecca for equal rights?; Extreme anti-choice legislator, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, announces a run for governor; President Obama’s report card for the state of women and girls in the U.S.; and Wal-Mart’s ongoing pay discrimination case before the Supreme Court.

  • This hardly can be contained in one paragraph, next to one bullet point, in a list of other stories. The inspiration this provides, alone, is mammoth. Still, it’s worthwhile to mention NPR’s look at Tunisian women standing side by side with men in the struggle to ensure Islamist parties do not rise to power after the overthrow of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. Tunisian women have the same rights as men in Tunisian society – and say they are more free than women living in other Arab societies. As well, they’ve had the right to access birth control and legal abortion since the 1960s. They credit a 1956 civil rights code for their equaiity and target a hindrance to equity and justice that American women will be quite familiar with:

The force of the Tunisian feminist movement is that we’ve never separated it from the fight for democracy and a secular society,” she [Khadija Cherif, a long-time feminist activist] says. “We will continue our combat, which is to make sure that religion remains completely separate from politics.”

  • Rep. Mike “Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act” Pence of Indiana announced his gubernatorial intentions for 2012. Yikes. As Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards comments about his plans, she takes issue with his wasteful legislative goals:

“As women voters in Indiana learn that one of Representative Mike Pence’s top legislative priorities is effectively denying access to preventive care for millions of women, he will have difficulty winning their vote as he considers running for governor.

“In the opening days of this Congress, Representative Pence introduced a bill that would have a devastating impact on rural and women’s health in Indiana by denying a significant number of local health centers federal funding for preventive care, including family planning, annual exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, contraception visits, and testing and treatments for sexually transmitted infections. More than 20,000 women in the state, many in rural areas, rely on Planned Parenthood for their primary and preventive health care.

“Americans want their elected leaders focusing on fixing the economy and creating jobs, not pushing an extreme ideological agenda that would take away health care from women.

  • In “An Obama Report Card: State of the Union for Women and Children” on the Women’s Media Center blog, Shelby Knox rates President Obama’s presidency’s track record, thus far, related to issues of importance to women and girls. Her assessment? Overall he passes but he’s got some work to do. Knox looks at everything from governmental policies related to violence against women to the number of female appointees to issues regarding women in the workforce. It’s a comprehensive look at the Obama presidency and women’s rights so far!

This case highlights the importance of allowing women to join together to challenge discriminatory practices as a group, including when the employer is a large company like Wal-Mart. The practical reality is that the company’s size is precisely what makes it difficult or impossible for individual women, on their own, to take on such companies — and why class actions are such a critical tool for vindicating civil rights protections.

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  • rebellious-grrl

    I caught that story about the Tunisian women on NPR. Great story! I was unaware of the rights women have in Tunisia. Thanks for posting a link to the NPR story.

  • amie-newman

    I’m so glad others felt as inspired as I was after listening – it’s especially relevant now, in light of all that’s going on in Egypt!