Tunisia: President speaks out against equality in inheritance

Tunisia: President speaks out against equality in inheritance

The President of Tunisia last week made a speech that hit the nail on the head. After supporting women’s social and economic rights, he spoke out against equality in inheritance. His words were not well received by civil society in Tunisia, particularly feminist activists.

President Kaïs Saïed made the speech on the occasion of August 13, which marks the anniversary of Tunisia’s Personal Status Code, promulgated in 1956 and enshrining certain rights for women such as divorce and the abolition of polygamy.

President Saïed reiterated his position against equality in inheritance, which he had already defended during his campaign for the presidential election. He said that the Koranic text is “clear and sufficient” on this subject, since it enshrines the principle of justice before that of equality.

At present, a woman inherits only half the share of a man, at the same degree of kinship, according to the law inspired by the sacred text.

Kaïs Saïed also denounced a “false debate”, “hardly innocent” on the political level when equality was introduced by his predecessor, the late Beji Caïd Essebssi, who in 2017 had commissioned a commission – the Colibe – to draw up a report on freedoms, which then gave rise to a bill in favor of equality in inheritance.

In a statement, the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women described Kaïs Saïed’s speech as “reactionary”. Former MP and president of the Colibe, Bochra Bel Haj Hmida said she was not surprised by the president’s conservative stance, but she said she was disappointed by what she described as an empty and overly populist speech. It’s a hard blow for feminist activists, especially as the equality bill is still waiting to be debated in the drawers of parliament.

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