A divisive debate has gone viral on social media platforms as the Tunisian President Beji Caid Sebsi pledged to push for a new law in an attempt to guarantee equality in inheritance between men and women.
The equality proposal is unprecedented in North African and Middle Eastern countries as Islamic jurisprudence gives male descendants twice the share of females.
Some secular activists have warmly welcomed Sebsi’s suggestion, while conservatives expressed their anger saying that the Maghreb consists of Muslim-majority nations and such decisions should be decided through referendums.
Sebsi said on Monday August 13th that Tunisia is a civil state and the republic’s constitution does not make any reference to a religious state.
However, opponents recognise that Tunisia has to deal with many urgent difficulties such as the economy and security before it can resolve some “secondary issues”.
Ouidad Hammou, a Moroccan activist on Facebook, sees that people need solutions for their daily problems as they struggle to afford the cost of living, so the proposal is a “waste of time”.
Meanwhile, the Tunisian President has specified that people who prefer the Islamic inheritance ruling can apply it, given that the state is required to take each part of society into consideration.
This option was seen as a concession from pro-equality activists as some modernist measures are not yet widely accepted in the Maghreb, despite relative progress in recent years.
Morocco also saw a similar debate last year, though no official step was taken despite the kingdom joining a convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination.
Back in 2004, Morocco adopted a “family code” known as “modawana”, imposing restrictions on polygamy and marriage of minors. However, civil society there is still urging further decision-making, as its Tunisian neighbour could overtake them in consolidating a civic state.
This debate over inheritance is not limited between supporters and opponents as some “moderate” analysts say governments should deal carefully and gradually with these legitimate matters, as modernising the society through “shock tactics” can lead to effects that are counter-productive.
It is said that when conservative people feel targeted, they hold on to their views tightly, although if things are done smoothly under a long process of awareness and education, they can become flexible and change their mind.