Tunisia’s marriage restriction ‘undermines human rights’

family law

A Tunisian marriage law has been criticised for undermining “a fundamental human right” by campaign groups in the North African nation.

Currently if a non-Muslim man wishes to marry a Muslim woman he must convert to Islam and present a certificate as proof of this conversion before he is allowed to proceed. A group of around 60 human rights groups in Tunisia have now said this restriction, which was first introduced back in 1973, infringes on a person’s right to choose their own spouse.

Sana Ben Achour is president of the women’s advocacy group Beity. She said “it is inadmissible today for a simple decree, which has almost no judicial value… to command the lives of thousands”.

Meanwhile other human rights advocates claimed the law also violated the country’s constitution. Article 21 of this document declares that both men and women “have equal rights and duties, and are equal before the law without any discrimination”.

The human rights groups have announced plans to launch a publicity campaign to draw attention to this controversy. They hope to mobilise public opinion in their favour and secure meetings with various government ministers. Their aim is to get the restriction scrapped as early as November.

Despite the constitution stating that men and women are to be considered equal under the law, women still face legal discrimination. The country’s ‘Code of Personal Status’, which was explicitly designed to create equality for women, still declares that the head of a family is the man. Sons are also given a higher priority than daughters when it comes to inheritance.

Photo of the Tunisian flag by Riyadh Al Balushi via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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9 comments

Amanda - March 29, 2017 at 9:09am

Marriage is bout love and wanting to support each other. Religion belief’s are what makes you who you are .It defines how you were bought up. I’m waiting to marry my fiancée in Tunisia and I’m English its all about money. We are currently in a world of fighting who is better. Its about time we bridged the gap. There is a god for all time to unite.

Paul - March 29, 2017 at 9:12am

This is a matter for Tunisian people. Marriage is a religeous idea. Both Christian and Muslims put men at the head of the house hold as in there religeous text women are made subserviant to men.
Cultures are now expected to be liberal and view women as equal. In this sense traditional religeous beleifs are pretty much redundant. People who would choose to beleive in the religeous texts as they were written are regarded as ‘extremists’ or out of date.
We even have an acceptance of homosexuality within the church which if you actually read the text is utterly rediculous.
Question is. How much do you wish to change the idea of religeon or the consept of marraige to fit our new liberlized culture ? At what point does the idea of marriage become redundant ?
I don’t beleive this is an act of discrimination if these people are choosing to follow a faith as it is written in its entirity. If people disagree with the condititions of marraige then maybe they should just not get married ?

JamesB - March 29, 2017 at 1:20pm

I suppose it depends on how you view your religion, rather than being religious or not, I think it’s less binary than that.

Women are, quite rightly, although perhaps not in Wahabism, regarded very highly in most religions, probably as highly as men. That’s not the issue here though which is secularism and pluralism and I think tolerance of others is a good thing. Like that saying about not agreeing with someone but agreeing with their right to be heard. I hope the law mentioned here is scrapped soon also.

JamesB - March 29, 2017 at 1:29pm

You raise the obey v cherish point. I think don’t marry who won’t say obey in the vows. That’s a sign of arguments to come. My first wife wouldn’t say obey and we argued constantly. I should have dropped that marriage before it started when she said she planned to say cherish there. I have no issue with w ok men being reverands our Reverands is a woman and she’s good at it. My wife being Catholic won’t take communion from her though so we go to both cofe and Catholic Church. Son is christened Catholic but will make his mind up as gets older and I don’t want him doing communion until he’s old enough to decide which church for confirmation. Which should be in his teens. We agreed that, or perhaps she obeyed me with that after I listened to her view on it.

JamesB - March 29, 2017 at 1:36pm

There is nothing in the Bible or Koran or Torah about women not being allowed to run a Country. E.g. UK or Pakistan both have been eg Theresa May and Queen is head of state and church and appointed her.

Personally I would have an issue with a female head of the church. Female or Gay Bishops I’m probably ok with after much soul searching. Gay weddings? Fine. Gay head of church? Not for me.

JamesB - March 29, 2017 at 1:41pm

The Muslims and Jews and Catholics don’t have female Rabbis and Imams and priests. Probably their loss.

JamesB - March 29, 2017 at 3:04pm

Actually, the head of the cofe is the Queen, a woman, so perhaps I do not have an issue with a female head of church afterall.

Andrew - March 29, 2017 at 5:37pm

JamesB: When you split your remarks like this you clog up the list of “Recent Comments” so that other readers can’t see who else may have had the temerity to think they have something worth saying. Please make it one long comment.

JamesB - March 29, 2017 at 7:56pm

I don’t think like that, I think and do things between. Suggested improvement, if, like other places, I could edit comments once submitted then there would be no issue. I agree there is an issue as I also value the comments of others. Especially when those involved in the case or the law or the court post. I will bear your point in mind and try harder.

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