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Hamza Ben Achour, a Tunisian music artist of sub-Saharan origin, said the new law was just the beginning in the fight against racism / Photo: Screenshot/ “Kahlouch”

Tunisia criminalises racism against its Black citizens in historic move

The Tunisian parliament approved on Tuesday (16 October) the country’s first law on the elimination of all forms of racism in a provision that organisations advocating minorities’ rights considered as “historical.”

Tunisians of sub-Saharan origin have long complained that racism and discrimination are everyday occurrences for them. Unofficial estimates say 15 percent of the 11.5 million population identify as Black.

The President of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, Masoud Romdhani, told Agence France-Presse that the law “is a turning point in Tunisia, and is as important as the decree of the abolition of slavery.”

The law makes Tunisia the first Arab country, and the second in Africa, to outlaw racial discrimination. And after being the first Arab country to abolish slavery, Tunisia has now become the first Arab country to vote for the law on the criminalisation of racism.

Protest against racism, Tunis, May 2016. Tunisia’s Black minority has long complained of racial discrimination / Photo: Screenshot/Aljazeera

 

The new law sets penalties for racist speech, ranging from one month to one year of imprisonment and a fine of up to 1,000 Tunisian dinars (about 300 euros).

The law penalises anyone who incites violence, hatred, discrimination and racism, and anyone who disseminates ideas based on racial discrimination, or the “formation, belonging or participation in a group or organisation that explicitly and repeatedly supports racial discrimination, with imprisonment from one to three years and a fine of 1,000 to 3,000 Tunisian dinars (1,000 euros). The fine can amount to 15,000 Tunisian dinars (about 5,000 3uros).”

The law aims at “the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and its manifestations, in order to preserve human dignity and achieve equality between individuals regarding the enjoyment of rights and the fulfilment of duties, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and the international treaties ratified by the Republic of Tunisia.”

But activists say a lot more is needed to change racist beliefs, which they say remain deeply ingrained in Tunisian society. The Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities considered the law as a “historical moment in Tunisia” and pledged to ensure the implementation of its provisions.

With agency reports

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