Tunisia pushes for ‘radical’ marriage law changes

family law

The Tunisian government is going ahead with plans that would radically change the country’s marriage and inheritance laws.

President Beji Caid Essebsi has announced that these changes include allowing women to marry non-Muslims and to give them equal inheritance rights to men. He said it was the government’s duty to “to achieve full equality between women and men and to ensure equal opportunities for all responsibilities”.

Under current law, men have far more freedom than their female peers. For example, they are permitted to marry someone of any faith and their new partner does not have to convert to Islam. By contrast, non-Muslim men have to convert if they wish to marry a Tunisian woman. Men also receive roughly double what women do in inheritance.

The President’s proposals have been welcomed by politicians and activists alike. Rym Mahjoub is an MP for the secular, liberal Afek Tounes (Tunisian Horizons) party. She called the reforms “progressive and revolutionary”.

Meanwhile Amna Guellali, the senior researcher for Tunisia and Algeria for Human Rights Watch, claimed the President’s announcement marked “the beginning of a healthy debate [which is] happening all over the region”.

However the ideas have also been met with some resistance. Jamila Ksiksi of the opposing Ennahdha (Renaissance) Party insisted there were “other issues that are much more important” than this one, such as unemployment and the cost of living. These matters “need more energy, effort and time, and … need to be addressed immediately” she said.

Photo by Tarek via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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