Progressive Realisation of Muslim Family Law: The Case of Tunisia

  • Ashraf Booley University of the Western Cape
Keywords: Islam;, women, family law, Code of Personal Status, Tunisia


From the time when women's rights were not placed high on the agenda of any state to the time when women's rights are given top priority, Tunisia's gender-friendly legislation requires a fresher look. One would be forgiven for thinking that Tunisia's reforms started after they gained independence from France in the 1950's. In fact, it was during the French Protectorate that reformers started rumours of reform, arguing amongst other issues for affording women more rights than those they were granted under sharia law, which governed family law in Tunisia. After gaining its independence, Tunisia promulgated the Code of Personal Status, which was considered a radical departure from the sharia. It is considered to be the first women-friendly legislation promulgated in the country. It could be argued that Tunisian family law underwent, four waves of reform. The first wave started during the French Protectorate. The second wave started in the 1950's with the codification of Tunisia's family law, which introduced women-friendly legislation. The third wave started in the 1990's with changes to the Code of Personal Status, and the latest wave commenced in 2010. In this article, I analyse the initial, pioneering phases of the reforms resulting from the actions of a newly formed national state interested in building a free society at the end of colonial rule, as well as reforms that have taken place in the modern state since the Arab uprising in Tunisia. As a result of the various waves of reforms, I argue that Tunisia should be seen as the vanguard of women-friendly legislation in the Arab world.



Author Biography

Ashraf Booley, University of the Western Cape
LLB LLM LLD (University of the Western Cape). Lecturer in the Department of Public Law and Jurisprudence, University of the Western Cape. Email


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