The Tunisian presidency recently announced that it had decided to scrap from its constitution, a 44-year old law banning marriages between non-Muslim men and Tunisian women. The law which has been actively enforced since 1973, required any non-Muslim man who wished to marry a Tunisian woman to convert to Islam and prove sufficiently that he has reverted before a marriage to a Tunisian woman can be deemed as legal.
“Congratulations to the women of Tunisia for the enshrinement of the right to the freedom to choose one’s spouse,” presidential spokeswoman, Saida Garrach via Facebook.
The controversial law has often been debated publicly and privately, and many human rights activists have repeatedly denounced the law, which was considered a stumbling block in an otherwise progressive Arab country especially wehn it came to women’s rights. Part of the reason the law remained in action for so long was because inheritance in Tunisia is passed on Patrilineally and families were wary of their wealth passing down to the families of foreigners through marriage.
The president, Beji Caid Essebsi, was quoted as saying “Inheritance is a matter for mankind that God left to the diligence of the people according to their era. The state is obliged to achieve full equality between women and men and to ensure equal opportunities for all responsibilities, as stipulated in Article 46 of the national constitution.”
A huge argument against the bill was the inequality in it’s implementation, as Muslim men were allowed to marry non-tunisian, non-Muslim women with the unspoken expectation that they would either commit to Islam, bear sons or be denied any access to family inheritances. The inequality that inherently written into the law speaks volumes to the level of inequal treatment the women of Tunisia have had to suffer.
It is never too late to do the right thing.