Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi speaks during the congress of the Ennahda Movement in Tunis, Tunisia May 20, 2016 AFP
CAIRO – 19 August 2017: ''Inheritance is a matter for mankind that God left to the diligence of the people according to their era," Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said on Sunday.
On the occasion of the National Women’s Day, the Tunisian President announced the formation of a committee to study the issue of individual rights and to enact them further and to consider equality between men and women in all fields.
A few weeks before the first municipal councils’ elections since the Tunisian revolution in 2011, the political arena witnesses polarization and disputes. Essebsi’s requests shocked both social and political circles when he returned pleas for more freedoms and equality between men and women in various fields.
A woman participates in a demonstration in Tunis on January 22, 2011- AFP
Essebsi’s request crossed all red lines and taboos, not only in Tunisia but in the Arab and Islamic world. Tunisia was the first Arab country to make such a move.
Essebsi asked the government and his minister of justice to end a regulation that prohibits the documentation of any marriage of a Tunisian Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man.
Essebsi pledged to find a form that does not conflict with public opinion. He cited Turkey's recognition of equality between men and women since Mostafa Kamal Ataturk's era.
He also stressed that Islam does not conflict with democracy and development, "In Tunisia, democracy goes hand in hand with respect for Islam," he said.
Essebsi praised parliament's approval in July of a landmark bill that criminalizes violence against women, making Tunisia the first Arab country to issue a law specifically addressing such violence.
Some 41 percent of Tunisian judges are women, while 60 percent are in the medical field, and 50 percent in the engineering sector, Essebi said.
Tunisian women at a rally in Tunis marking the 5th anniversary of the 2011 revolution (AFP)
Essebsi’s speech shocked Tunisian Islamists who do not enjoy good relations with him. However, he keeps avoiding direct collisions with Islamic movements, stressing that, “I have faith in lawmakers’ wisdom and that they can find legal wordings that can avoid the Tunisians’ emotions.”
Equality in inheritance
Essebsi manifested that the inheritance issue is related to man-made laws that can be easily modified according to the ongoing circumstances.
He asserted that women should enjoy the complete financial equality because they contribute to the Tunisian economy and the family income by 45 percent.
In 2016, twenty-seven parliamentarians proposed a legislative initiative to achieve equality between men and women in the inheritance issue, but this initiative did not succeed to pass due to the opposition of the Parliament’s Islamic bloc.
Muslim women marriage to non-Muslims
In March, Tunisian feminist movements called for the prohibition of legal provisions that do not allow Muslim Tunisian women to get married to non-Muslim men. They claim that these provisions contradict the freedoms’ articles stated in the Tunisian Constitution in 2014.