The issue of women’s rights has always been central to the legal discussion in Tunisia, hence, consistent reforms to family law have been carried out since the 1950s. Guaranteeing basic human rights in family laws means ensuring the protection of women’s rights and by large good family practices.
Although since its independence Tunisia has set the foundation of a modern state through guaranteeing protection for women through progressive legislation, the government has not been decisive on limiting the recurring debate on identity orientation. The wave of opposition appears whenever the conversation on gender equality is circulating, yielding controversy around state policies and the Tunisian cultural authenticity and thus shaping the public opinion around the two conflicting tendencies. Observably, Essebsi is following the legacy of Bourguiba in continuing the tradition of women’s liberation, but the consecutive reforms on family law and more precisely the reforms on inheritance and marriage rules reignited the debate on equality between men and women. Moreover, the debate reopens the discussion on the presence of religion within politics and society, dividing the public opinion into proponents and opponents of equality in inheritance.
On the 18th of August 2018, members of the civil society; men and women, youngsters and the older generation, all mobilized in overwhelming numbers in the capital Tunis, the birthplace of the Tunisian revolution. The demand was the abolition of the current regulation on inheritance as Section 103 of Tunisia’s Personal Status Code limits daughters’ inheritance rights and basically determines that sons inherit twice as much as daughters.
I, like the people who supported the proposed bill which will guarantee equality in inheritance, believe in women’s entitlement to basic human rights and thus, we chose to vocalize our belief through emphasizing the legitimacy of the demand. The common conviction we all shared was that by maintaining the current regulation on inheritance, general discrimination against women would continue to be present, especially in rural and conservative areas where women are less educated. Thus, the responsibility of the state is to enforce laws that ensure the full protection of basic human rights. Interestingly, the underlying objective of the march was not only to show support for the proposed bill on equality in inheritance, but rather to make a strong case that the state should not hold a referendum on questions of rights or freedoms, and that there is no room to impose a particular religious and ethnic vision in a democratic republic state.
The picture below is of one of the protesters holding a sign that translates to «I’m here for my daughter”