As part of its plan to abolish all aspects of gender inequality, the Tunisian government is working on a draft law that allows women to give the citizenship to their children.
The new citizenship law, discussed in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, is the culmination of a series of laws that treat Tunisian men and women equally and fight all aspects of gender-based discrimination.
According to the law, all children born to Tunisian mothers are to be given the Tunisian citizenship whether born inside or outside Tunisia and regardless of the father’s nationality and even if the father’s identity is unknown.
The law will be applied immediately to all children who will not have reached the legal adulthood age on the date the law is issued. It also looks into several pending cases in which children have not been given the Tunisian citizenship and proposes ways of dealing with them.
The Tunisian citizenship law was amended twice in order to guarantee equality between men and women. The first amendment came in 1993 and gave children born to Tunisian mothers and foreign fathers the right to obtain the Tunisian nationality after the parents submit a joint written approval provided that the child is under the age of 19.
In the 2002 amendment, the child would be given the nationality based on a written request from the mother alone. This amendment aimed at solving problems arising from the death or disappearance of the father as well as cases when the father is unknown or legally incompetent.
However, the two amendments failed at achieving the desired equality between men and women since there are several cases that were not tackled. One of the most common cases is when the parents are divorced and the father refuses that his child obtains the Tunisian nationality.
Women rights in Tunisia
Tunisian women rank first amongst their Arab counterparts as far as civil rights are concerned. In addition to the fact that polygamy is illegal in Tunisia, the minimum age of marriage for girls is 17 provided that the consent of both the girl and her mother is obtained.
To ensure fair verdicts when women are involved in lawsuits, judges dealing with personal status cases like divorce, alimony, and custody have to receive training in the field of women rights.
Tunisian women have the right to give their family names to her children if fathers were unknown.
Women in Tunisia are also privileged as far as education and medical services are concerned. For example, 99% of Tunisian girls under the age of six are enrolled in schools and females make up 59% of university students. In addition, more than 90% of deliveries are done with medical assistance.
Tunisian women also make up 27% of judges, 42% of physicians, 72% of pharmacists and more than 10,000 women are business owners.
However, feminists and rights activists in Tunisia still complain of unequal treatment especially regarding political parties and decision-making positions and which are basically regulated through the quota system.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)