Tunisian women celebrating (58080)

Jan. 29 (GIN) – Tunisia’s new constitution is being called “a revolution in itself” for its promises to women of gender equality and other rights.

“It’s a big, historic step, not only for Tunisian women,” said Lobna Jeribi, a member of the Ettakattol party, one of the secular coalition partners within the Islamist-led government. “It was a very emotional moment for me when it passed” last Sunday.

The document has been called the most liberal constitution in the Arab world, produced through consensus.

Under the constitution, torture is banned. Women are guaranteed parity in political bodies. Power has been handed over to a caretaker government led by Mehdi Jomaa, a former minister of industry and an engineer by training. Elections are expected to be held later this year.

In a signing ceremony, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and the head of the National Assembly declared: “With the birth of this text, we confirm our victory over dictatorship,” but cautioned that “much work remains to make the values of our constitution a part of our culture.”

The new constitution also demands that the state protect the environment and tackle corruption. It does not, however, ban the death penalty or end restrictions on freedom of speech.

Approval of the constitution by an overwhelming majority of assembly members – only 12 members voted against – comes three years after the overthrow of the North African country’s long-time ruler Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

“The objective is to arrive at elections and create the security and economic climate to get out of this crisis,” Jomaa told reporters.

No date has been set for elections, but they will be held later this year, with Ennahda and key opposition alliance Nidaa Tounes likely to battle for the government.