Tunisia’s marriage restriction ‘undermines human rights’

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.

Marilyn Stowe

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