TUNIS,Â Aug 12, 2013Â (AFP)
Tunisia’s ruling Islamist Ennahda party and theÂ opposition have called for rival ralliesÂ on TuesdayÂ to mark local women’s day,Â reflecting deepening divisions in the strife-torn North African country.
The country is in the grip of a political crisis sparked by the murder ofÂ an opposition politician last month, the second such killing this year.
Ennahda chief Rached Ghannouchi was due to meet Houcine Abassi, chief ofÂ the powerful UGTT unions organisationÂ on MondayÂ to discuss the crisis,Â although the time and location of the meeting have been kept secret so far.
Critics of the government are calling for demonstrationsÂ on TuesdayÂ nightÂ to defend women’s rights followed by a march outside parliament, where theÂ opposition has held nightly demonstrations since the July 25 assassination ofÂ opposition MP Mohamed Brahmi.
TuesdayÂ is the 57th anniversary of the Personal Status Code that wasÂ adopted on August 13, 1956, giving Tunisian women unequalled rights in theÂ Arab world at the time.
Opponents of the ruling Ennahda party — including political parties andÂ the powerful UGTT labour union — believe these rights are now under threatÂ from Islamists in the country.
Najoua Makhlouf, a UGTT official hailed Tuesday’s planned protests.
“This will be a historic demonstration given the difficult circumstancesÂ the country is going through: political killings, terrorism and attempts toÂ roll back women’s rights,” she told a news conference.
Amel Radhouani, from the Femmes Libres (Free Women) group said the marchÂ would send a clear message to the Islamists in power.
“This will not be a celebration but a march against terrorism, andÂ Ennahda’s attempts to take back women’s gains. There is a political will inÂ this goal,” Radhouani said.
According to opposition groups, Ennahda has been too passive in dealingÂ with radical imams who have called for the return of polygamy and marriagesÂ involving minor girls — traditions banned in Tunisia under the 1956 law.
Meanwhile, political parties have failed to reach a consensus on a proposedÂ constitution, which makes no clear guarantee of the equality of the sexes.
Ennahda came in for heavy criticism last year when it tried to pressÂ through the idea of gender “complementarity”.
But the party has denied the allegations, andÂ on MondayÂ Ennahda urged itsÂ supporters to gather from 1500 GMT on Tunis’ Habib Bourguiba avenue, epicentreÂ of the 2011 uprising that toppled the regime of veteran president Zine ElÂ Abidine Ben Ali.
It said the rally would be held under the slogan: “Tunisia’s women, pillarsÂ of the democratic transition and national unity”.
The slogan reflects the position of the Islamists who insist thatÂ ”transitional institutions” be kept in place in the absence of a consensus onÂ the country’s new constitution.
Both sides hope to repeat the success they had early in August in bringingÂ tens of thousands of their supporters to the streets, before four days of calmÂ as people marked the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
But there seems to be no sign of a political breakthrough as the country’sÂ crisis deepens.
Although the National Constituent Assembly suspended work drawing up a newÂ constitution last week to give Ennahda and the opposition time to resolveÂ their differences, a timetable for talks has yet to be set.
The opposition coalition, made up of parties from across the politicalÂ spectrum, has pressed its calls for the resignation of the government and theÂ dissolution of the assembly.
The UGTT, which has some 500,000 members and can paralyse the country withÂ strike action, has also called for the resignation of the government and itsÂ replacement by a cabinet of technocrats.
Islamists have rejected their demands, and proposed a government includingÂ representatives of all political parties, and called for elections inÂ December.
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