It’s been two weeks since a wave of peaceful protests broke out in the Tunisian capital of Tunis that saw more than 1,000 women take to the streets to oppose Tunisia’s archaic inheritance laws that are currently based on Islamic Jurisprudence.
The law states that when a parent dies whatever inheritance the children are entitled to females should receive half the amount that the male sibling does. Moreover, the law states that men are financially responsible for women.
The women in Tunisia bagged themselves a fairly powerful advocate for their cause: the Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi. In a speech on International Women’s National Day, the president also called for a revision in the laws governing Muslim women, specifically the aforementioned inheritance laws.
But not all quarters of society accepted the protests with open arms. Muslim clerics denounced the protests arguing that the proposition was “a flagrant violation” of Islamic law. It is certainly important to recognise the part religion plays in this situation. Islam provides a moral framework of how a society conducts itself and whilst Islam is important to Tunisia, the clerics have it wrong in this case.
However, the women have it wrong too. As Tunisians seek to carve out a new and more equitable society following the Arab Spring uprising that saw former leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali deposed, one can’t help but feel that they are missing the bigger picture. Activist Kaouther Boulila argued “it is true that Tunisian women have more rights compared to other Arab women but we want to be compared with European women”, but why limit your scope to what already exists?
Whilst trying to eradicate sex-based discrimination is noble in principle perhaps Tunisians could seek to do away with inequality by abolishing inheritance altogether. This sentiment may seem like an ode to Das Kapital but like gender equality the proposition is based on a sound principle.
No one of rational mind would argue against the idea that children, from the moment they’re born, should have the equal opportunity to achieve their potential whether that be as a doctor, a scientist, a social worker, an architect – anything.
Tunisians are in a unique position where they can construct a world of their own out of the ashes of the former regime. Instead of following in the footsteps of accepted dogma they should produce a fairer society that will allow everyone to flourish. By following this line Tunisians are merely perpetuating a class system that disadvantage scores of people by its nature.
Is the above suggestion risky? Yes. Is it radical? Relatively, yes. But the saying goes that fortune favours the brave. Tunisia is clearly an ambitious country – channel that ambition into an unconventional path and they might just create something amazing.