Tunisia abolishes ban on Muslim women marrying non-Muslims

#Tunisia

Presidential office says abolition of decades-old ban enshrines freedom to choose one's spouse

Tunisia is viewed as one of the most progressive Arab states on women's rights (AFP)
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Friday 15 September 2017 12:24 UTC
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Tunisia has abolished a decades-old ban on Muslim women marrying non-Muslims, the presidency has announced.

"Congratulations to the women of Tunisia for the enshrinement of the right to the freedom to choose one's spouse," presidency spokeswoman Saida Garrach wrote on Facebook on Thursday.

The announcement comes a month after the president, Beji Caid Essebsi, called for the government to scrap the ban dating back to 1973.

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

Human rights groups in the North African country had campaigned for the ban's abolition, saying it undermined the fundamental human right to choose a spouse.

Tunisia is viewed as being ahead of most Arab countries on women's rights, but there is still discrimination particularly in matters of inheritance.

Essebsi, last month said: “Inheritance is a matter for mankind that God left to the diligence of the people according to their era.

“The state is obliged to achieve full equality between women and men and to ensure equal opportunities for all responsibilities, as stipulated in Article 46 of the national constitution."

There had been growing calls for interfaith marriages to be allowed.

In March, around 60 rights groups signed a statement demanding freedom for “a fundamental human right: which is the right to choose a spouse". 

At the time, Sana Ben Achour, president of the Beity Association, a women’s rights group, said that "it is inadmissible today for a simple decree, which has almost no judicial value... to command the lives of thousands".