Ennahda Proposes Blasphemy Law in Tunisia
Tunisia’s ruling Ennahda party introduced legislation this week that would punish blasphemy by up to two years in prison for first time offenses and by up to four years for repeat offenders. Subjects covered under the proposed law include God, the prophet Mohammed, other prophets, the holy books of the Abrahamic religions, mosques, churches, and synagogues, as well as ”insults, profanity, derision and representation of Allah and Mohammed.” The bill drew condemnation from Human Rights Watch for broadly worded offenses, calling the move “a new form of censorship in a country that suffered from so much censorship under the ousted president.”
Additionally, women’s rights advocates decried the proposed constitutional clause intended to promote gender equality due to its wording which refers to women as “men’s associate.” Article 27 of the Tunisian constitution, which was approved this week after a vote by the Commission of Rights and Liberties, states women’s equality is necessary “under the principal of complementarity at the heart of the family and as man’s associate in the development of the country.” While officials defended the wording as necessary to show that gender rights are not in competition with each other, women’s groups blasted the decision as a step backward and as giving women rights only in reference to men.
Also, would-be participants in a Tunisian conference on human rights in Bahrain appear to have been targeted by Bahraini authorities in this week’s crackdown. Of the six activists invited to Tunis to attend the conference, only three will be able to attend after authorities arrested Ahlem Alkhzai at the airport, and banned two others for travel. The Bahraini ambassador to Tunisia has only declined his invitation to attend the conference which will discuss abuses in the kingdom since the protest movement started there in 2011.