The National Constituent Assembly continued its progress through Chapter Two of the draft constitution on Rights and Liberties.
A number of significant provisions were adopted recognizing and obligating the state to ensure respect for the right to health, education, work and culture.
The Assembly had adopted a number of key civil and political rights at the start of Chapter Two on Monday such as the right to life, right to a fair trial and humane treatment under detention, freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of association. On Tuesday, it moved onto discussing a number of important economic, social and cultural rights, or so-called “second generation rights” which are a novel feature of many 20th century constitutions such as the South African constitution (which the Assembly had closely examined in its studies as well as consulting constitutional experts from the country).
The rights discussed and adopted by the plenary on Tuesday were the right to health and public health care, the right to free education, the right to property (including intellectual property), the right to culture and cultural innovation, promotion of sport and provision of sports facilities and the right to water.
Particularly notable was the adoption of a legal obligation on the state to provide “preventative health care and treatment to every citizen” and to provide “free health care to those lacking support and those with limited income” (article 37), which was passed with over 95% of deputies present. On a related note, a protest took place during the plenary discussion outside the Assembly, organized by doctors and medical students to protest the proposed law requiring medical students to work for three years in the public sector upon graduation. The bill, which has been examined by the legislation committee of the Assembly but is yet to be put before the plenary, is contested by medical students and unions who are opposed to the obligatory nature of the medical service, the length of the period, and the fact that inner regions require improvements in terms of equipment and not only doctors. The health ministry and supporters of the bill insist that increasing the number of specialist doctors in the deprived inner regions of Tunisia would help address critical shortages of doctors in those regions, some of which have 10 times fewer doctors than the capital and coastal areas, and that as the state pays for free education for doctors, which is funded by taxation from all regions, the national health system should provide sufficient health care for all regions.
The adoption of article 38 saw a new legal obligation on the state to guarantee free education “at all stages” and to seek to provide all the necessary means to achieve a high quality of education and training”. An amendment proposed by Abdellatif Abid (Ettakattol Party) and Mouna Ben Nasr (ex-Moubadara deputy) added an obligation on the state to “work to embed youth in the Arab-Islamic identity” and to “strengthen and promote the Arabic language and expand its usage”.
Statistics for Day 5:
- 7: Number of Articles Adopted
- 1: Number of Articles unanimously adopted (Article 40 on property)
- 169: Average number of deputies voting per article
- 159: Average number of deputies voting “yes” per article
- 94.4%: Average percentage of voting deputies voting “yes” per article
- 29.5%: percentage of articles adopted so far out of the total to be discussed
An issue of central importance to the revolution – unemployment – was raised in the discussions around article 39, which in its final adopted form, states that “work is a right for every citizen, male and female alike. The state shall take the necessary measures to ensure the availability of work on the basis of competence and fairness. All citizens, male and female alike, shall have the right to adequate working conditions and to a fair wage” (article 39).
Tuesday saw less progress through the articles than previous days, partly due to a number of side meetings of the Consensus Committee to reach agreement on compromise drafting that would incorporate proposed amendments in a consensual manner, to speed up discussions in the plenary. A number of meetings of the presidents of the assembly blocs also took place to discuss the final details of voting on the Higher Elections Committee (ISIE). It was reported that agreement had been reached on all candidates and details by the end of the evening.
The plenary is expected to vote on the 9 members of the Higher Elections Committee (ISIE) that will organize and oversee the elections and set an election date. The plenary is expected to resume at 10.30 on Wednesday morning.
Final Text of Articles Adopted on Tuesday 7th January
Article 37: “Health is a right for every person. The state shall guarantee preventative health care and treatment for every citizen and provide the means necessary to ensure the safety and good quality of health services. The state shall ensure free health care for those without support and those with limited income. It shall guarantee the right to social assistance as specified by law.”
Article 38: “Education shall be mandatory until at least the age of sixteen. The state shall guarantee the right to free public education at all stages and shall seek to provide the necessary means to achieve a high quality of education and training, as it shall work to embed youth in the Arab-Islamic identity and strengthen and promote the Arabic language and expand its usage.”
Article 39: “Work is a right for every citizen, male and female alike. The state shall take the necessary measures to ensure the availability of work on the basis of competence and fairness. All citizens, male and female alike, shall have the right to adequate working conditions and to a fair wage.”
Article 40: “The right to property shall be guaranteed, and it shall not be interfered with except in accordance with the conditions and mechanisms stipulated by law. Intellectual property rights are guaranteed.”
Article 41: “The right to culture shall be guaranteed. The right to creativity shall be guaranteed. The state shall encourage cultural creativity and support national culture in its originality, diversity and renewal, in so as far as it promotes the values of tolerance, rejection of violence and an openness to different cultures and a dialogue between civilizations. The state shall protect cultural heritage and guarantee the right of future generations to it.”
Article 42: “The state shall promote sports and shall seek to provide all the facilities necessary for the exercise of physical and leisure activities.”
Article 43: “The right to water shall be guaranteed. Conservation and the rational use of water shall be a duty of the State and society.”