Tunisia, Maghreb’s trailblazer in equal inheritance rights

Tunisia will soon become the first country in North Africa to grant women and men equal inheritance rights after a long debate.

Despite protests from thousands of people objecting to any challenge to Islamic law, Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi promised he will submit a bill to parliament granting women and men equal inheritance rights, in line with a proposal put forward by a government-backed committee.

The inheritance move comes after the North African country allowed Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men.

“I propose equality inheritance to become law,” the Tunisian President said in a speech marking Women’s Day in Tunisia

However, in the face of the opposition from conservatives, he left the door open for some exceptions, saying families who wished to continue the allocation based on Islamic law would be able to do so.

“I propose that equality in matters pertaining to inheritance be signed into law by modifying the code of personal status,” he said.

Tunisia is ruled by a coalition of moderate Islamists and secular forces, which have been managing its democratic transition since 2011, avoiding the upheaval seen in Egypt, Libya or Syria.

Yet the new inheritance law is no subject of unanimity as thousands of protesters gathered outside parliament in the capital Tunis, to denounce the committee’s proposals, which they said – if passed – would amount to anti-Muslim legislation.

Written by