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The New Arab

Tunisia's parliament bans racial discrimination

Of Tunisia's population of 10.8 million, around 10-15 percent identify themselves as being black [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 17 June, 2016

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Racial equality campaigners mark a key victory after years of campaigning since Tunisia's 2011 revolution as the parliament votes unanimously in favour of a bill to criminalise discrimination.
Tunisia's parliament voted unanimously in favour of a bill to "criminalise discrimination, especially racism" beginning the two-stage process of passing the bill into law earlier this week.

The new legislation was presented to the country's legislature by three civil society groups – Euromed Rights, the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights and the Committee for the Respect of Human Rights and Liberties in Tunisia – a coalition that had started its formal effort to end racial discrimination in March.

This week's approval of the bill by MPs marks the success of months of lobbying by the coalition, which managed to achieve a cross-party consensus on the matter.

Following Tuesday's vote on the draft bill by parliament, the next stage is for the law to be referred to the legislative body's bureau for approval.

Once this is successful, a commission will deliberate over the bill before it is subject to a final vote.

The eventual passing of the bill into law – which widely expected to occur without hindrance – will mark a victory for rights activists who have been campaigning on the issue since Tunisia's revolution in 2011.

"This bill is mainly focusing on racism and there have been no objections at all," Euromed's Maghreb Policy Adviser Ramy Khouili told Tunisia Live.

"This bill is mainly focusing on racism and there have been no objections at all. We are also working on LGBT rights, but it's harder to get people convinced about that."

Of Tunisia's population of 10.8 million, around 10-15 percent identify themselves as being black. 

Despite this high percentage, however, many Tunisians report having been the victims of racial discrimination based upon their skin colour, with many racial slurs often used to address or refer to the country's black citizens.

The new legislation will improve rights for Tunisia's minorities and various ethnic groups, building upon areas that were previously missed by existing laws.

Prior to this latest development, Article 21 of Tunisia's constitution stood out as the most significant piece of law with regards to race, guaranteeing equality of all citizens "before the law without any discrimination." This law, however, did not highlight racial equality as one of its specific aims.

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