In landmark vote, Tunisian parliament adopts article on child rights in new constitution
UNICEF advocacy crucial in this premiere in Tunisian history
TUNIS, 14 January 2014 – As Tunisian parliamentarians engage in marathon votes to adopt new articles in the country’s draft constitution, one particular article stands out for children and all those speaking on their behalf. Article 46, exclusively devoted to child rights, has been voted for inclusion almost unanimously (171 for, 1 against, 2 abstentions).
“This is a great day for children in Tunisia,” said Maria-Luisa Fornara, UNICEF representative in this North African country where a fruit vendor set himself in flames in December 2010 and sparked what came to be known as the Arab Spring. “For the first time ever, children’s rights are enshrined in the country’s fundamental law. We are delighted that our joint advocacy has paid off.”
In the immediate aftermath of the Tunisian uprising, which marks its third anniversary today, and as the reform process began with work on a new draft constitution, UNICEF engaged in active advocacy with government and nongovernment partners to ensure an article on child rights is included in the new draft.
Reaching out to senior political leaders, parliamentarians, human rights and child rights organizations, academics, members of civil society and the media, UNICEF made the case for a clear, explicit text that spells out what children’s rights are and what the responsibility of parents and the state is.
UNICEF’s advocacy was stepped up after a first draft of the Constitution was presented, which threatened to erode some of the gains that children had previously enjoyed. Technical support by leading child rights and legal experts proved crucial.
The adoption of Article 46 on January 9 crowns these efforts. The article stipulates that “Children are entitled to dignity, care, education and health from their parents and from the State” and that the “State guarantees the legal, social, material and moral protection of all children, without discrimination, in accordance with the principle of the best interest of the child.”
In line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, this article recognizes the child as a right holder, puts the onus on the family and the State to guarantee children’s rights without discrimination, and upholds the best interests of the child.
“Article 46 offers Tunisia’s 4 million children the best protection against all forms of violations of their rights,” Fornara said.