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President's call for equal inheritance for women

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(18 Sep 2017) LEADIN:An initiative by Tunisia's president to make inheritance and marriage rules fairer to women risks dividing the country.The 90-year-old president argues that Tunisia needs to fight discrimination and modernise. STORYLINE:These men and women are calling for a change... and so is their president.In a speech last month, Tunisia's 90-year-old president, Beji Caid Essebsi, proposed allowing women the same inheritance rights as men, instead of the current system based on Islamic Shariah law that generally grants daughters only half the inheritance given to sons.Activist Noura Lourimi says she has personally experienced the effect of the inheritance laws in her family, with an ongoing dispute lasting 15 years."Men look at the inheritance from a purely material side, unlike women. We women do not look at this side and are satisfied with what we are given, while the brothers are trying to get the largest part of the inheritance."She says that inheritance laws were from a time when women had a different place in society."Today, women bear equal responsibility with men: they work and contribute to family expenses and deserve an equal part as men in inheritance."Essebsi is confident of pushing through the changes because he says the country has a history of relatively progressive views towards women.Organisations like the Tunisian Economic and Social Rights Forum have often supported women in activism.Co-founder Mansour Romdhani argues that Islam in fact helped women in terms of inheritance and it is their right to have an equal portion."When Islam came, Tunisian women did not inherit anything, and Islam came and gave them their right to inheritance because it (the system) did not work.""Today, women are active in society. They work and struggle. Tunisian women have fought for dictatorship and fought for their rights. They are among the first to fight for democracy and equality." The president has announced the creation of a commission led by a woman lawyer and rights activist aimed at drafting revised rules.But not everyone is happy with the proposed changes.Mainstream Muslim clerics almost universally see the inheritance rules as enshrined in the Quran, Islam's holy book, and consider the rules on marriage to be equally unquestionable in Shariah. The imam of the Hammam Lif mosque, Sheikh Hachmi Jemni, questions the make-up of the committee."What is shocking and strange is that the president gives this proposal to the prime minister and sets up a committee to study it and that this committee does not include among its members any specialists in Islamic legislation or scholars of Tunisia in the Islamic religion."He also argues that the Quran does in fact favour women in cases of inheritance therefore the law should remain under Shariah guidance."There are 35 cases in the division of inheritance in Islam: in four cases men inherit more than women, in five cases women inherit and men inherit nothing, in 11 cases they inherit equally, while women inherit more than men in 15 cases. So why should they call for equality while Islam gave the largest share to women?"Most Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Asia enforce the rules since they use Shariah as the basis for family law. Some worry that such changes could stir up extremist anger in a country that has already suffered deadly attacks.From a legal standpoint, lawyer Saber ben Ammar says that inheritance cases are a "thorny" issue.But the president argues that existing practice violates Tunisia's constitution, adopted in 2014, and that he wants Tunisia to reach "total, actual equality between men and women citizens in a progressive way," as called for in the charter.But even he didn't push for equal inheritance.You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 4116633 d0711470e407ffd168b98aef1b2866aa MEEX Tunisia Inheritance Beji Caid Essebsi Tunis Tunisia North Africa Social affairs Government and politics
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