Tunisian women free to marry non-Muslims

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International desk, September 16: Tunisia has overturned a law that banned women from marrying non-Muslims.A spokeswoman for President Beji Caid Essebsi made the announcement and congratulated women on gaining “the freedom to choose one’s spouse”.

Until now, a non-Muslim man who wished to marry a Tunisian Muslim woman had to convert to Islam and submit a certificate of his conversion as proof.

Tunisia, which is 99% Muslim, is viewed as one of the most progressive Arab countries in terms of women’s rights.

The new law comes after President Essebsi pushed for the lifting of the marriage restriction decree that was put in place in 1973.

He said in a speech last month, during celebrations of the National Women’s day, that the marriage law was “an obstacle to the freedom of choice of the spouse”.

The restriction was also seen as violating Tunisia’s constitution which was adopted in 2014 in the wake of the Arab Spring revolution.

Human rights groups in Tunisia had also campaigned for the law’s abolition.

The order comes into force immediately and couples are free to register their marriages at government offices.

In July, the Tunisian parliament also introduced a new law that abolished a clause that allowed rapists to escape any punishment if they married their victims.

The country banned polygamy as far back as 1956, setting it apart from other Muslim-majority nations.

However, women in Tunisia still face discrimination, particularly in matters of inheritance which still prioritises sons over daughters.

The Tunisian Association of Democratic Women estimates that nearly 70% of Tunisian women are victims of abuse.

Source: Agencies