1 Population indicators
According to the 2014 census, Tunisia’s population is 10982754.1
WHO estimates show that the prevalence of disability is 16,3 per cent. This figure is derived from national census, disability survey or components from other surveys.2In 2003, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Solidarity and Tunisians Abroad conducted a comprehensive survey of disability in Tunisia. The data gathered on persons with disabilities were included in the general census, which is conducted every 10 years. 3
Source: Knoema ‘World Report on Disability, 2014’4
Source: UNCRPD implementation report- Tunisia5
The 2014 census found that 2,3 per cent of Tunisia’s population (around 252000 people) have a disability. 6
The percentage of women with disabilities amongst members of the disabled community is 33,6 per cent and the total number is 50863 out of a total of 151423 persons with disabilities by 2003. 7
Children and youth with disabilities count for 37 per cent of the persons with disabilities. 8
47,8 per cent of these disabilities are due to congenital causes and 38,7 per cent are due to illnesses. 11
The Tunisian government signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007,12 and ratified it and its Optional Protocol on 2 April 2008.
Tunisia’s country report was due on 2 April 2010 and was submitted to the CRPD Committee on14 July 2010. DPOs participated in the reporting process.13 The first periodic report of Tunisia was prepared during its entry into the democratic transition process that began on 14 January 2012. 14
Yes, Tunisia has domesticated the CRPD and the Collectiftunisien pour la promotion des droits des personnes en situation de handicap (CTPDPSH) (Tunisian Grouping to promote the rights of persons with disabilities) is responsible for disability issues and it has recommended that:
Country reports are also presented to the Human Rights Committee (ICCPR), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the CRPD Committee.
The Committees have provided feedback that should improve implementation and increased recognition of the rights of people with disabilities. 16
Tunisia’s most recent Periodic Report was made for the period between 1995-2006.17 Tunisia made this report during the ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), held from the 15-28 November 2007, in Brazzaville, Congo. In its report, Tunisia has several articles, which talk about rights.
Article 18 talks about protection of the family, of women, of the child, of the elderly and physically disabled persons.18 The Report recommends that the Tunisian government:
Tunisia did submit a state report and the concluding observations recommended that the rights of people with disabilities needed to be incorporated into national legislation. 20
Tunisia’s State Report states that mothers of children with disabilities are given special considerations in maternity support and employment initiatives for people with disabilities are also discussed.21 No concluding observations have been submitted.
Tunisia follows a dualist approach to international law. The new Constitution states that all international treaties ratified by Tunisia, customary international law and general international law have legal force in Tunisia, and that the core international human rights treaties which Tunisia has ratified are applicable and binding in domestic law. 22
Article 20 of the 2014 Constitution of the Tunisian Republic states that ‘International agreements approved and ratified by the Assembly of the People’s Representatives are superior to laws and inferior to the Constitution’. 23
Tunisian courts have dealt with several cases which have led to judicial decisions that demonstrate that persons with disabilities have legal protection. For instance: 28
The State shall protect persons with disabilities against any form of discrimination. Every disabled citizen shall have the right to benefit, based on the nature of the disability, from all of the measures guaranteeing their full integration into society. The State must take all necessary steps to ensure this. 38
In response to a campaign led by experts, doctors and parents of the disabled, the Tunisian government signed an extensive set of laws and regulations governing the rights of people with disabilities in 2005. 47
Tunisian law requires all buildings, establishments and installations to allow full accessibility to those with motor and/or sensory handicaps. 49
The guarantee of the health services and social security for physically disabled persons is considered as a (national responsibility) by article 3 of the orientation law no 2005-83 of 15 August 2005, relative to the promotion and protection of disabled persons. 52
While it seems that Tunisia has made many efforts to improve its legislation related to persons with disabilities, one can still see a very strong presence of the medical model approach.57 There is also a strong preference for specialised solutions (transport, school, and so on) and much less focus on ensuring full accessibility of mainstream services, notwithstanding a quite comprehensive accessibility strategy. There seems to be no understanding of the implications of article 12 of the CRPD and many references are made to certain rights being subject to the consent of guardians. 58
The legislator has reserved a special Code for the Child. Likewise, he has made provision in the Penal Code special provisions governing the issue of the physically disabled, the elderly and vulnerable persons. 60
Resolution 143 of the 45th Ordinary Session (Banjul, The Gambia - May 2009) extended the mandate of the group by establishing a Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities, with the mandate to:
There are a good number of references to Tunisian NGOs working for persons with disabilities as well as DPOs. However, it is not clear which of these NGOs are genuine DPOs governed by persons with disabilities. 72
Yes, the Tunisian National Human Rights Institution works with Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) amongst other civil society groups to ensure its compliance with the Paris Principles; supporting the establishment of a transitional justice mechanism in accordance with international human rights standards to monitor and investigate human rights violations and promote accountability; strengthening national protection systems and support the development and monitoring of public policies for the protection of vulnerable groups including women, youth and migrants; and ensuring increased compliance of UN human rights mechanisms and bodies (UPR, Treaty Bodies, and Special Procedures). The office has the mandate to protect and promote human rights. 73
Tunisia has an Administrative Ombudsman who has the role of receiving individual requests from citizens and from non-governmental organisations pertaining to the administrative problems encountered by the civil servants within the public service or against other officials; it is also empowered to submit proposals to the President of the Republic.74 In its report, there is no mention of people with disabilities.
In Tunisia, the Supreme Council on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is an autonomous body. One third is composed of representatives of Ministerial Departments and the other two thirds of independent persons. It can receive complaints and grievances from private individuals or non-governmental organisations, and can investigate claims of human rights violations, and submit proposals aimed at improving the law and the practice. It publishes an annual report on its activities and a national report on the human rights situation in the country. 75
Yes, Tunisia has organisations that advocate for rights and welfare of persons with disabilities. There are, in Tunisia, 87 associations working on the rights of the disabled, with 228 regional networks, and overseeing 269 specialised centres providing a number of educational, social, health and entertainment services.76 Countless activities to promote the principles embodied in the Convention were organised by associations concerned with disabilities and non-governmental organisations. Those associations and organisations made great contributions in that regard, including the promotion of the Convention at the conference organised in Tunis in 2009 by the Basma Association for the Promotion of the Employment of Persons with Disabilities, in cooperation with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.77 Some of the organisations are listed as follows:
Associations and organisations, which played an important role in disseminating awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities and the Convention included: 78
The first activities Handicap International initiated in Tunisia began in 1992. In 1997, a partnership between HI and the Ministry for Social Affairs and Solidarity focused on winning the support of national and local decision-makers to ensure that people with disabilities were meaningfully represented in local and national policy. It also sets up initiatives to support disabled peoples' organisations, and to build the capacity of service providers to ensure more services are accessible to people with disabilities. 79
The oldest disability-related center in Tunis. It specialises in education for deaf children aged 3-15 who have recently received hearing aids. The center focuses on pre-school education and integration into standard schools, as well as vocational training for those who cannot be integrated; Le Centre pour les Handicaps Mentaux has students ranging from 6-30 years old, usually with rather severe mental disabilities. Its focus is on giving their students autonomy, and they provide several workshops on activities such as ceramics, sewing and woodworking with the hope that this will lead to employment;
Run by L’Association des Parents et Amis des HandicapésTunisiens (APAHT), has 197 students with ‘medium’ to ‘severe handicaps’. Unlike the other centres, which are public and funded by the government, parents of the students here have to pay an admission fee. The parents therefore almost entirely fund El Walid;
Using a hands-on approach to achieve professional and social integration, rather than integration in schools. It has 90 students, most of whom have mental disabilities, and is funded by donors and parents, in addition to the subsidies given by the Ministry of Social Affairs. 80
The Ministry of Social Affairs does not directly provide special education, but rather funds NGOs and associations who act as service providers;81
The Government provides ongoing support to those organisations and encourages civil society to further disseminate awareness of the Convention and portray persons with mental disabilities in a positive light
This is an independent non-profit organisation founded in 1998 in Cairo, Egypt. It is a regional organisation composed of DPOs operating in the different Arab Countries. AOPD’s main objectives are to promote the rights of people with disabilities, to empower people with disabilities and to represent Arab people with disabilities in the world at large. 83
The Handicap International Maghreb programme’s main objectives are the structural improvement of living conditions, integration and full social participation of people with disabilities. 84
With reference to 9.1, international and national based organisations have partnered with Tunisian transitional government to implement the CRPD. DPOs work with these initiatives by raising awareness about disability, and carrying out data collection on prevalence of disabilities. 85
Yes, there have been instances where DPOs have been involved in activities and programs geared towards enhancing social and political participation of persons with disabilities. This has been noted variously in the text.
The Collectiftunisien pour la promotion des droits des personnes en situation de handicap (CTPDPSH) (Tunisian Grouping to promote the rights of persons with disabilities) drew attention to the fact that, although Tunisia had adopted measures to encourage the integration of persons with disabilities, even before ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, these measures were little applied in practice. CTPDPSH also described some of the obstacles encountered by persons with disabilities when trying to gain access to buildings, public areas and means of transport, despite existing legislation; difficulties in integrating children with disabilities in the ordinary school system, and the failure to include the notion of ‘reasonable accommodation’ in the 2005 decree on the employment of persons with disabilities. 88
CTPDPSH recommended that Tunisia should include the principle of non-discrimination with respect to persons with disabilities in the new Constitution and that the rights of persons with disabilities should be made an integral part of development programmes; that the genuine participation of the persons with disabilities in all democratic institutions and in the devising and implementation of policy concerning them should be guaranteed; that the definition of disability and the conditions for issuing a disability card contained in Outline Act No 83-2005 should be revised; that the Guardianship and Trusteeship Act should be repealed and replaced with legislation on assisted decision-making; that legislative provisions on the occupational integration of persons with disabilities should be revised; that the necessary measures should be adopted to ensure the real application of its inclusive education strategy; and that the requisite funds should be raised to ensure that persons with disabilities can lead an independent life based on individual choice. 89
The concluding observations specifically note that a need for ‘awareness-raising’ about people with disabilities exists in Tunisia.90 DPOs could assist the state party in raising awareness by providing trainings and other resources and assistance.
Yes, there are international and national research institutions involved with research on persons with disabilities. In the field of disability, several draft studies were launched in 2005 including research centres, laboratories, universities, ministries and associations concerned. In 2006, three studies were launched over a period of four years: improving the quality of life, identifying learning difficulties among children, and identifying biological and genetic factors causing mental retardation. Finally, in 2007, a scientific research unit responsible for the identification of deafness among newborns was created within the Institute for the Promotion of the Disabled. The following are some of the institutions:91
The socio-economic rights of persons with disabilities are not fully realised in Tunisia due to high level of illiteracy which played a significant role in the lack of awareness and understanding of rights, specifically in a patriarchal society, an upbringing founded on inequality, and the hegemony of a traditional cultural establishment based on the division of roles based on gender. The high level of illiteracy in the interior of the country was due to the fact that schools are very far from villages, especially in rural areas with harsh natural environments, in addition to poor families requiring assistance in farming and household chores, which pulls girls away from school. 100
A report that cut across Jordan, Palestine, Tunisia, Algeria and Lebanon, states that, the realities confronting people with disabilities (PWDs) in many Arab countries in relation to the right to work and education,101 indicate an absence of a descent physical environment that meets their special needs and an absence of appropriate social awareness and specialisation to interact with them as citizens, in addition to a minimal investment of their potential in society. This reality necessitates a reconsideration of public policies approaching issues of disability in its generality, and special needs specifically. The most prominent features which help establish a foundation to invest in the potential of persons with disabilities, lies in the removal of the social and material constraints, which hinder their integration in their local communities, starting from school and ending in the workplace, both in the private and public sector. 102
Health is a right for every human being. The state shall guarantee preventative health care and treatment for every citizen and provide the means necessary to ensure the safety and quality of health services. 103
The state guarantees the right to free public education at all levels and ensures provisions of the necessary resources to achieve a high quality of education, teaching, and training. It shall also work to consolidate the Arab-Muslim identity and national belonging in the young generations, and to strengthen, promote and generalise the use of the Arabic language and to openness to foreign languages, human civilisations and diffusion of the culture of human rights.
The state shall protect persons with disabilities from all forms of discrimination. Every disabled citizen shall have the right to benefit, according to the nature of the disability, from all measures that will ensure their full integration into society, and the state shall take all necessary measures to achieve this.
A new Constitution of the Tunisian Republic was enacted in 2014, despite lobbying by the ethnic-linguistic Amazigh minority for linguistic rights during the year, the new Constitution retains Arabic as the state language and stipulates the promotion by the state of Arabic and the Arab-Muslim identity. 104
According to UNICEF, 84 per cent of the rural population had access to drinking water compared to 99 per cent of the urban population in 2008.105 Moreover, 64 per cent of the rural population had access to health services compared to 96 per cent in urban areas.
Yes, there have been interactive debates, which seek to identify good practices in the field of participation of persons with disabilities in elections and in the conduct of public affairs. It will also contribute to raising awareness of the challenges that persons with disabilities continue to face in the exercise of their political rights, with a view to considering possible measures to strengthen the participation of persons with disabilities in the political and public life of their countries. 106
Pursuant to resolution 16/15, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held its fourth interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities on 1 March 2012. The theme of 2012’s panel was participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life. States, inter-governmental organisations (IGOs), national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs), participated in the debate. 107
Ms Theresia Degener, rapporteur of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, focused her intervention on the jurisprudence elaborated by the Committee on the issue of political participation of persons with disabilities. She noted that in its concluding observations on Tunisia and Spain, the first ones ever adopted by the Committee, the Committee had recommended that relevant legislation be reviewed to ensure that all persons with disabilities had the right to vote and participate in public life on an equal basis with others, regardless of their impairment, legal status or place of residence. Ms Degener challenged the common belief of voting as a highly rational and intellectual decision, and concluded that time had come to eliminate deeply rooted stereotypes that currently prevent persons with intellectual disabilities from exercising their equal right to vote and be elected. 108
Tunisia should move towards implementing the CRPD to the fullest. Additional resources are needed by DPOs to help realise the goals of the CRPD. In addition, the gap between what the laws and the CRPD require and the reality on the ground, need to be closed so that people with disabilities in Tunisia will realise their goal as equal citizens in Tunisian society.
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20. African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights ‘Concluding observations and recommendations on the Consolidated Periodic Report (1995-2006) of the Republic of Tunisia’ (2006) http://www.achpr.org/files/sessions/42nd/conc-obs/4th-9th-1995-2006/achpr42_conc_staterep1_tunisia_2007_eng.pdf (accessed 3 June 2015).
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91. In 2003, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Solidarity and Tunisians Abroad conducted a comprehensive survey of disability in Tunisia. The data gathered on persons with disabilities were included in the general census, which is conducted every 10 years.United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (n 3 above).
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