Tunisian president proposes inheritance equality for women, with exceptions

Hundreds of Tunisians shout slogans during a protest against proposed reforms opposed by conservative Muslims that include equal inheritance rights for women and decriminalizing homosexuality, on August 11, 2018 in Tunis. (AFP)
Updated 13 August 2018

Tunisian president proposes inheritance equality for women, with exceptions

  • Tunisia grants women more rights than other countries in the region
  • The current system is based on Islamic law which typically allows men to inherit double what a woman would receive

TUNIS: Tunisia’s president on Monday proposed giving women equal inheritance rights despite protests from thousands of people objecting to any challenge to Islamic law.
The North African Muslim country, which toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, grants women more rights than other countries in the region, and since last year has allowed Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men.
But in a show how divided society remains, thousands demonstrated on Saturday in front of parliament against any changes to inheritance rules.
The current system is based on Islamic law which typically allows men to inherit double what a woman would receive.
“I propose equality inheritance to become law,” President Beji Caid Essebsi said in a speech.
But in the face of the opposition from conservatives, he left the door open for some exceptions, saying families who wished to continue the allocation based on Islamic law would be able to do so.
Parliament now needs to decide on a bill.
Tunisia is ruled by a coalition of moderate Islamists and secular forces which have been managing its democratic transition since 2011, avoiding the upheaval seen in Egypt, Libya or Syria.
They had agreed in 2014 on a constitution granting far-reaching political rights, limiting the role of religion and holding free elections, which stands out in a region often run by autocrats.
But one of the few areas where the Islamists have resisted change is the inheritance law.
To break the standoff Essebsi, a secular politician, had in August 2017 set up a committee to draft proposals to advance women’s rights, winning praise from secular-minded women.
While Tunisia has been hailed as the only “Arab spring” success story economic growth has been disappointing, however, with high unemployment driving many young Tunisians abroad who had joined the uprising.


Lebanon to ease virus curbs from Monday

Updated 25 min 15 sec ago

Lebanon to ease virus curbs from Monday

  • The health minister said Lebanon “will gradually reopen from Monday” to give citizens and businesses a respite ahead of Christmas

BEIRUT: Lebanon is from Monday to gradually ease restrictions imposed two weeks ago after a surge in coronavirus infections, in a bid to relieve its struggling economy in time for the festive season, officials said.
Acting health minister Hamad Hassan told reporters the country “will gradually reopen from Monday” to give citizens and businesses a respite ahead of Christmas and end of year holidays.
He said restaurants will reopen at 50 percent capacity, but bars and nightclubs will remain closed and weddings prohibited, while an overnight curfew will start from 11 p.m. instead of 5pm.
Schools would also reopen but with some classes still held online, Hassan said after a meeting of Lebanon’s coronavirus task force.
He warned that the “danger” of a rise in infections still exists and that the hoped-for results to stem the virus thanks to the curbs would not be known for several days.
Before the two-week restrictions went into force in mid-November, bed occupancy in hospital intensive care units was between 80 and 90 percent while “now it stands at 65-70 percent,” Hassan said.
Since February, the country has recorded more than 125,000 Covid-19 cases, including around 1,000 deaths.
Lebanon, with a population of around six million, had been recording some 11,000 coronavirus infections on average each week before mid-November, according to the health ministry.
A first country-wide lockdown imposed in March was effective in stemming the spread of the virus, before restrictions were gradually lifted as summer beckoned people outdoors.
But the number of cases surged following a monstrous blast at Beirut’s port on August 4 that killed more than 200 people, wounded at least 6,500 and overwhelmed hospitals.
The blast and the pandemic have exacerbated tensions in the Mediterranean country which has been grappling with its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.