Libmonster ID: U.S.-1279
Author(s) of the publication: M. I. MYAGKOVA


Post-graduate student of MGIMO (U) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Tunisia Keywords:genderfeminism

Gender inequality is one of the most acute problems in Arab society. Taking into account religious traditions and peculiarities, the situation of Arab women has been and, unfortunately, remains disadvantaged for many centuries. Representatives of the international community not only constantly draw the attention of the Arab authorities to the unequal status of women, but also insist on its speedy change.

The only Arab country that has managed to create a working legislative framework and guarantee women equal rights with men is the Republic of Tunisia.


Ideas about women's emancipation in Tunisia emerged during the colonial period under the influence of more developed European countries, primarily France. It is from Europe that many progressive views have leaked out. In the late 20s of the 20th century, emancipated women from aristocratic families appeared in Tunisia, and they were the first ones who decided to remove the veil.

Since the 1920s, Muslim girls have been able to attend French primary schools and colleges. Further expansion of women's education followed the establishment by the French administration of special schools for Muslim girls, where teaching was conducted not only in French, but also in Arabic. In the capital, these innovations did not meet with much resistance, unlike in the province, where they were initially boycotted by the local population. By 1940, there were 3,700 female students in such educational institutions.1

Even the minimal access of the female population to education contributed to the gradual loosening of the traditional opinions that were ingrained in the minds of ordinary people that women do not need education.

In the 1930s, the first feminist organizations appeared in Arab countries, and books on gender issues were published. For example, T. Haddad's book "Our Woman in Sharia and Society" 2, the first edition of which was published in 1930, stirred up the entire Arab world. Haddad demanded a radical change in the traditional forms of family and marriage relations, considering that polygamy, talaq* and forced marriage never followed from the essence of Islam, and the author explained the secondary position of women by misinterpreting religious norms.

Three women's organizations sprang up in Tunisia, one of which was the Tunisian Muslim Women's Union, led by Besheera Ben Mrad. The Union was engaged in charitable activities, conducted awareness-raising among women, reminding them of the great Arab women of the past (Saida al-Manubia 3, Aziz Othman 4, etc.).

The first three Tunisian feminist organizations also included the "Section of the Arab Youth Women's Association" under the leadership of Souad Hat-tesh and the "Tunisian Girls' Club " under the leadership of Tawhid Farhad. They shared the same goals and objectives of reviving the Arab-Islamic identity and encouraging women to participate in all spheres of the country's life.

In 1944, the Tunisian Women's Union was established. The main objective of the Union was to change the way of life and improve the quality of life of Tunisian women. It was founded by French women who were in favor of uniting with local Tunisian women on the basis of equality, without distinction of race, religion or belief, to defend their rights.


After gaining independence in 1956, the country revised its legislation on the political rights of the female population.

The legal basis for the development of emancipation was the new Code of Laws on Family and Marriage, fixed by decree of August 13, 1956. The Code replaced the family and marriage norms of Sharia and became the first codification of family law in the history of the country. August 13, along with March 8, is celebrated annually in the country as a women's holiday.

* Abandoning your wife (Arabic)

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Under the new regulation, a Tunisian woman is granted equal rights and responsibilities to her family, society and the State.

The Law on Municipal Council Elections, which came into force in June 1956, allowed women to participate in municipal elections. However, the very first elections demonstrated the unpreparedness of Tunisian society for such changes. Thus, in the 1957 elections, out of all registered candidates (840 people), only 15 were women.

The Constitution adopted in 1959 established equal rights and obligations for all citizens of the country, including the right of both men and women to choose and be elected. However, despite these changes, the National Assembly elections held in the same year again demonstrated low electoral activity of the female population and a high level of influence of conservative sentiments in society.5

The innovations of the Tunisian leadership greatly stirred up society, but the chief mufti took the side of President Bugriba, which allowed the authorities to enlist unprecedented support. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Tunisian Government began to pay much more attention to Islamic issues in order to strengthen its ideological and political positions. This, in particular, was caused by public discontent with the too "visible" emancipation of Tunisian women (wearing mini-skirts, etc.), which led to constant criticism of the president. Bourguiba, in turn, blamed the youth, who, in his opinion, adopted far from the best features of the West and misunderstood emancipation.

In the 1970s, a conservative wing began to take shape among women. So, in Tunisia, girls began to appear in long skirts with short veils covering their faces and shoulders. They were followers of Hend Shalltear, a teacher of philosophy and religious thought at the lyceum for girls, who advocated a return to the basics of Islam. Since October 1975. she attacked the president with criticism, and was supported by many Tunisians who began to openly speak out against the Code.

All of the above factors have led to the fact that official propaganda aimed at women's equality has become more cautious, and a tough campaign against conservative Muslim customs has been effectively stopped.

As a result of the jasmine revolution of 1987,6 Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali came to power in the country, whose official program was to promote pluralism, political and economic liberalization, protection of human rights, etc. However, due to the growing popularity of Islamic sentiments, the leadership began to emphasize the Islamic nature of the country and step up the activities of the Muslim clergy.

These circumstances caused concern among the Europeanized part of society, which was afraid of revising the family and marriage legislation. A campaign to protect the Code has been launched in Tunisia. Ben Ali did not change the Code and confirmed its inviolability.

In addition, the authorities subsequently took a number of steps aimed at establishing the principles of equality and partnership between the sexes. Thus, in 1992, a number of amendments were made to the Personal Status Code, the Citizenship Law, the Criminal Code, etc.

Gradually, the activity of women in the political sphere begins to increase. In 1994, 7% of the total number of deputies elected to Parliament were women, which is much higher than the regional average. Currently, there are five women members of the Government, local participation of women in representative bodies is close to the global average of 14%, and the share of women in responsible positions in the civil service is 35%.7

For example, in the 2009 parliamentary elections, women won 27.5% of seats compared to the previous composition (22.8%).8. In the Tunisian Ministry of Environment and Regional Development, women hold 19% of senior positions and make up 36% of its staff.9 In addition, it was decided that women should be included in regional governor's councils without fail. In May 2004, Salva Mohansi was appointed Governor of a province for the first time by presidential decree.10

Recently, Tunisians are represented in the highest echelons of power. At the moment, they are the Second Deputy Speaker of the Parliament (Habiba Mosaabi), the Minister of Women, Family, Childhood and Elderly Affairs (Bibiya Buhnak Shihi); five Secretaries of State, in particular, the Secretary of State of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Relations with the United States and with Asian Countries (Saida Shtiui), the Secretary of State of the Minister of Health for public hospitals, heads of a number of diplomatic missions.

According to the Tunisian head of state, "women are educated, competent, hardworking, have creative thinking, and most importantly, are one of the factors of moderation and tolerance in society." 11

However, it is necessary to recognize the fact of "flirting" with the electorate, half of which, of course, are women. On the other hand, this phenomenon also has a positive side: women are considered as a social force that determines the vote in favor of a particular candidate, which helps to increase women's self-awareness and self-esteem.

Another factor influencing the women's environment is the creation and support of various women's organizations. For example, the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs works closely with non-governmental organizations to introduce and promote political, economic and social reforms.

page 52

rights of the female population. The Ministry is supported by three bodies: the National Council for Women and the Family, which is composed of representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations and acts as a forum for democratic dialogue on all issues related to the promotion of women's rights; the Center for Research, Documentation and Information on Women (CREDIF), which specializes in gender analysis;and the National Council for Women and the Family. and the National Commission for Women and Development, which sets out the broad directions of the national strategy on women's rights within the framework of national development plans.

The largest women's non-governmental organization is the National Union of Tunisian Women (CNW), established in 1957 on the basis of a number of women's organizations that existed during the colonial period (the Tunisian Women's Union, the Tunisian Women's Islamic Union).

The main tasks of the NSTJ include::

- support and strengthen State policies for the advancement of women;

- educational work among women to explain their rights and obligations to the state;

- ensuring not only formal and legal, but also de facto equality of women;

- increasing women's participation in the process of democratization of Tunisian society;

- social protection of women.

To this day, the CNT remains the main women's organization in Tunisia and continues to promote the development of the women's movement in the country. The Union has 8 professional associations: women lawyers, medical workers, teachers, civil servants, etc.

* * *

The Tunisian authorities, immediately after independence, attached great importance to addressing the issue of legal gender equality as a necessary condition for high-quality social, political and economic development.

However, despite the large-scale measures taken and, one might say, revolutionary steps in the field of legislation compared to other Arab countries, the level of women's participation in political life remains low, and women's access to the political decision - making process is limited. With a high degree of confidence, we can say that a significant part of women's society was not ready for political reforms.

On the other hand, the fact that Tunisia, as a traditional Muslim country, has been able to achieve quite significant results in building a society of equal opportunities deserves great respect. The Tunisian experience can be used by other Arab States, and it is likely to be perceived more positively than the experience that is very often imposed on Arab countries from the outside.

Myagkova M. I. 1 Razvitie zhenskogo moslemskogo dvizheniya v vtoroy polovine XX veka na primere Tunisa i Irana [Development of the women's Muslim movement in the second half of the XX century on the example of Tunisia and Iran]. Collection of articles, Moscow, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2006, pp. 124-138.

2 In the 1970s, a new edition of Haddad's book was published in Tunis, with a slightly modified title. Haddad Tahnr. Notre femme, la legislation islamique et la societe. Tunis, Maison tunisienne de l'edition, 1978.

3 Saida Al-Manubia (c. 1190-1266) was a famous Tunisian woman, famous for her struggle against the oppression of women and unprecedented generosity. Many accused her of debauchery and other sins, but this did not alienate people from her, but, on the contrary, led to a great respect for the personality of this determined woman. Saeeda al-Manubiyah's grave is located in her hometown of Manubiyah.

4 Aziza Bent Ahmad Bin Othman Dey (d. 1669) was a Tunisian princess of the Muradite dynasty. She is known for her help to the poor, in particular, she sold 90 thousand hectares of land that belonged to her in order to establish a hospital (which later received her name), free slaves, redeem prisoners and give dowries to poor girls. Her grave is located in a mausoleum in Tunis.

Myagkova M. I. 5 Decree. Op.

6 The Jasmine Revolution (November 7, 1987) - a bloodless change of power in Tunisia, as a result of which the first president of the country, Habib Bugriba, was removed from his post (due to health and age). As a result of the coup, 51-year-old Army General Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was Interior Minister from May 1986 and was appointed Prime Minister on October 2, 1987, became the second head of State in the history of independent Tunisia.

7 The President's speech opened a new political era in Tunisian history, 12.11.2009 -

8 Ibid.

9 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Twenty-seventh session. Summary record of the 566th meeting -

10 Ibid.

11 Interview of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali / / Politicheskiy zhurnal, 8.02.2005 - news/2005/02/050208_tunis_russia_relations.htm



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