National Women's Day in Tunisia
Evolution of women’s status
Today, the development of women’s agenda is globally relevant. Some countries recently started to actively work on balancing men’s and women’s rights and opportunities. However, many of them have already achieved great results. In the matrimonial domain, Tunisia is considered to be a country, which is open to the advances of the modern world. The country has two annual holidays dedicated to women: International Women’s Day and the anniversary of the Code of Personal Status, which is called National Woman's Day. Citizens of Tunisia traditionally celebrate National Woman's Day on August 13.
On this festive day, there are a number of different events countrywide. The streets of Tunisia are filled with an air of joy and happiness. Many women wear national costumes and colours of the Tunisian flag, dance, and sing. This holiday commemorates the day of adoption of the Code of Personal Status in Tunisia, which significantly expanded women’s rights and opportunities.
Habib Bourguiba, outstanding Tunisian political figure, adopted the document on August 13, 1956.
Thanks to his activity, the role of women in Tunisian society significantly evolved. Habib Bourguiba abolished polygamy and institutionalized the legal procedure for divorce and requiring marriage based on mutual consent of both parties. Later, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, his successor, introduced modifications to the Code and reinforced it.
The Code of Personal Status in Tunisia is a document that put into practice the principle of the mutual consent for marriages for the first time in an Arab Muslim country.
Until 1956, divorce was men’s prerogative. A man could unilaterally repudiate his partner by a simple declaration before two witnesses. Thanks to the Code, a divorce procedure could later take place only in a court upon mutual agreement of both spouses and in the case if some of the partners became the victim harmed by the other one. At the same time, the victim received the right to receive monthly alimony payments.
The document enshrined the principle of gender equality in relation to citizenship.
The Code protected the rights of women making them equal with their spouses. It prescribes that each of the two spouses must treat the partner with kindness and respect, live in good rapport, and avoid all prejudice. At the same time, the document obliged the wife to contribute to family's expenses in order the husband couldn’t have powers of administration over her possessions.
The Code of Personal Status forbade the marriage of men with the women whom they divorced three times. Thus, spouses started to approach their family life more responsibly and consciously.
In 1993, the amendments to the Code were carried out. Many of them concerned the legal aspects of relationship between mothers and their children. A woman received the right to transfer her patrimony and nationality to children to the same extent as husband, represent her child in several judicial procedures, and to open and to manage a savings account for her child’s benefit. The requirement of obligatory consent of the mother for the marriage of her minor child was introduced.
Gradually, the concept of the patriarchal family in Tunisia came to an end.
On the 50th anniversary of adoption of the Code of Personal Status in Tunisia, two legal projects were announced and approved. The first of them concerned strengthening the residence law to the benefit of mothers caring for children. The second one balanced the minimum marriage age for both sexes: 18 years. Before that, women could marry at the age of 15.
The new constitution of Tunisia adopted in 2014 also pays special attention to women’s rights.
The state committed to protect women’s established rights and started to work on enforcing and developing them. It guaranteed equality of opportunities for representatives of both sexes in all fields.
Tunisia’s legislation related to women’s empowerment is being improved every year.
August 13 is a special date in Tunisia because this is the day that once completely changed the life of women. Since that time, they received many opportunities for self-fulfilment and literally bloomed thanks to that. Every year, on August 13, they become even more beautiful, joyful, and happy, sharing their warmth and smiling at people around.
Many other countries have such national women’s holidays as well. For example, India celebrates National Women’s Day on February 13, the date of birth of India’s first women to be the President of the Indian National Congress and Governor of the United Provinces. The politician contributed greatly to expansion of women’s rights and opportunities in her country. In Mozambique, National Women’s Day is observed on April 7. The yearly celebration honours Josina Machel, one of the most outstanding women in the country’s history. Since 1995, South Africa has also annually celebrated its National Women's Day on August 9.
Viktoria Yezhova, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov