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HRW urges Tunisia to pass 'landmark' inheritance equality law

The Tunisian president has proposed a number of legal amendments to improve gender equality [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 December, 2018

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Tunisian parliament remains divided ahead of a vote on an amendment to the Personal Status law that would make Tunisia the first Arab country to enshrine inheritance equality in law.
Human Rights Watch has made an appeal to Tunisia's lawmakers to "take the landmark step" to approve a new law that would grant women equal inheritance rights to men.

Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essebsi officially submitted the draft law to parliament last week, after it was approved by the Council of Ministers on 23 November.

If approved by parliament, the legislation would amend the 1956 Code of Personal Status, which determines that men would inherit twice the share of women, under a certain interpretation of Islamic sharia.

Tunisia would be the first Arab country to enshrine inheritance equality in law.

"Parliament should adopt this draft law to remove gender discrimination in inheritance law and reaffirm Tunisia's place as a regional leader on dismantling legal discrimination based on gender," said 
Ahmed Benchemsi, HRW's Middle East and North Africa communications director.

However the proposal has sparked a polarising debate in the north African country, with the Islamist Ennahda party, who hold the largest share of seats in parliament, annoucing their opposition to the reform.

"It is a shame to see Ennahda fighting equality in inheritance laws, when the party has backed other reforms favouring women's rights," Benchemsi said.

Following a report published by a presidential commission on harmonising Tunisian law with the 2014 constitution focused on individual rights and freedoms, various amendments to legislation have been put forward.

In September, the government scrapped a law that prohibited Tunisian Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men, a significant step in loosening the tight controls over women's life choices.

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