Tunisian women in the twenty-first century: past achievements and present uncertainties in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution

Citation:

Tchaïcha JD, Arfaoui K. Tunisian women in the twenty-first century: past achievements and present uncertainties in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution. The Journal of North African Studies [Internet]. 2012;17 (2) :215-238.

Abstract:

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13629387.2011.630499

The recent and dramatic changes in Tunisia since the Jasmine Revolution have brought new challenges for its citizens and for its women in particular. Tunisian women, long considered the most liberated in the Arab-Muslim world, are now seeing a growing conservative mind-set spreading across the country. The more frequent appearance of women wearing headscarves and men sporting beards in public, if only an outward symbol of Islam, is unusual behavior in the traditionally secular, post-independent Tunisia. This more conservative phenomenon, although not the primary driver of the recent revolution, has secured a legitimate place in Tunisian society since January 2011. Many Tunisian feminists and NGOs fear that this legitimacy will eventually threaten women's active participation in public and private life, legally guaranteed through the 1956 Code of Personal Status (CPS). In this paper, we examine pre- and post-revolutionary Tunisia to understand the importance and influence of the rising tide of conservatism and its potential impact on women's rights. Two principle questions frame this study: (1) what factors have prompted the re-emergence of the more religiously based conservatism in secular Tunisia in recent years? and (2) will the new Tunisia safeguard the CPS through its transitional period and thereafter? The authors use an interdisciplinary approach in their study, integrating Tunisia's unique past – grounded in historical, political, and socio-economic events and conditions – with the interviews of 33 citizens prior to January 2011, and then evaluate the post-revolutionary events in light of the former. The analyses reveal that before January 2011, the more conservative behaviour was linked to the present-day challenges and global developments, and not necessarily to a deep-rooted Islamic practice and/or religiosity. Since the revolution, however, the legitimate acknowledgement of certain Islamic practices and movements, previously banned over a period of 50 years, has created an audible voice in the public arena which, in turn, has created a renewed and heightened concern about the possible deterioration of women's rights.

Publisher's Version

See also: MENA, Tunisia, Religious
Last updated on 06/18/2016