Lack of miniskirts in Tunisia reveals bigger problem

North Africa
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/10/15, 09:17 am

In 2010, Tunisia sparked the Arab Spring that led to the resignation of political leaders around the Arab world. But it proved to be a lot harder to organize a miniskirt protest.

Former Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba banned miniskirts shortly after the country’s independence in 1966. Recently, an online campaign urged Arabic men to oppose immodest female dressing: The campaign set up a Facebook page called “Be a man and don’t let your woman out in revealing clothes.” Organizers argued the hijab and other modest clothing protect women from unwanted attention.

In response, Tunisia’s League for the Defense of Secularism and Freedom declared last Saturday a national miniskirt day. It set up a Facebook page to attract women to the rally against female discrimination in the Muslim world. The page received thousands of “likes,” but only about a dozen women dressed in miniskirts showed up at the rally in Tunis, the country’s capital.

Protest organizers blamed the low turnout on women’s fear of their families and Islamic extremists. Tunisian teacher Lilia Kammoun explained she and her mother both wore miniskirts, but her daughter is now hesitant to do the same: “It’s sad that we’re moving backward.”

During the Arab Spring, many women organized protests, hoping they would lead to increased female rights. Tawakkol Karman organized protests and rallies against the Yemeni ruler and won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

Tunisia has proportionally more women in politics and other fields than other Arab countries, but it still has a way to go. In its 2014 Global Gender Gap Index, the World Economic Forum ranked Tunisia 123 out of 142.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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