The text defines women's role as "complementary to the one of the men in the family" and does not ensure that provision is reciprocal, noted the United Nations Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.
In mid-August, some 6,000 Tunisians, mostly women, took to the streets of Tunis to protest what they regard as a push by the North African country's Islamist-led government for constitutional changes that would degrade women's status.
Political transitions like the one which Tunisia has been going through since January 2011, when demands for democracy and human rights inspired the "Arab Spring", offer "unprecedented opportunities for further progress on and consolidation of women's human rights", the U.N. working group said.
“The country's leadership must seize on them for the good of their people, women and men alike... No retrogression is therefore permissible," Chandrakirana added.
Article 28 of the new draft constitution risks rolling back the gains on equality, women’s human rights and women’s social status made in Tunisia over the last five decades, she warned.
“The current government has an obligation and responsibility to build on these achievements,” Chandrakirana said. “While governments change, international human rights obligations remain binding.”
The U.N. group of independent experts plans to visit Tunisia in November.
Moderate Islamist party Ennahda has governed Tunisia in a coalition with two secular parties since last October, and has promised to respect women's rights and not to impose strict Muslim rules.
Ennahda member Farida al-Obeidi, who chairs the constituent assembly's human rights and public freedoms panel, has said the draft constitution's wording does not represent a backwards step for Tunisian women.