Tunisia (MNN) – Since 1973, Tunisian women have been prohibited from marrying men who were not of the state religion. But this recently changed, according to Women for Middle East Hope, a project of SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa.
Free to Marry
The goal of Women for Middle East Hope is to bring awareness to the United States about the issues that women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) deal with. One of these issues in Tunisia was the marriage stipulations. And while marriage in the US and other western countries is both a freedom and a personal choice, that isn’t the case in the MENA region.
“In the Middle East, it is a [completely] different world. Women don’t have the right to choose their spouse,” SAT-7’s Project Manager of Women for Middle East Hope, Kim Wriston, shares.
“They are told who to they will marry … many times based on religion. So, this was a huge, huge breakthrough for the Tunisian women. And I just wanted to bring it to the forefront as a great victory for women in general.”
About the Marriage Ban
Interestingly enough, men who followed the state religion had not been confined to this ban on inter-faith marriages, it was only the women. However, men who were not following the state religion could only marry women who were also not of the state religion.
This law targeted minority religions, giving them less freedom to choose who to marry. After all, if these women weren’t marrying a man of the state religion, they couldn’t marry at all. In this way, it actually encouraged conversions to Islam as a couple could marry if the man converted and provided proof of the conversion.
After campaigning for some time, women and human rights groups in Tunisia were able to see the marriage ban lifted. Even Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi agreed that the marriage ban went against Tunisia’s 2014 constitution.
Women in Tunisia
Tunisia’s President is actually in favor of women’s freedoms in Tunisia. Wriston says that he is indeed trying to help bring equality to his countrywomen. Why? Because he recognizes their contribution to society and the economy.
“In many parts of the Middle East, the Tunisian women would be considered as progressive in many areas. They are able to work outside of the home. They are actually able to travel without their spouse,” Wriston explains.
“And so, in many ways they do have a lot of freedoms. But this was a law that had been in place and had been holding women back from moving forward in what we would consider the normalcy in the US.”
And while the rescinding of this marriage ban is indeed a step forward for women in Tunisia, there is still much work to be done. So please, pray for those women who suffer from abusive partners and for them to have hope for the future.
Pray also for this new liberation to help women find the one and true God. Pray for the Gospel to spread throughout Tunisia. And finally, pray for all women’s freedom and for them to encounter Jesus all throughout the MENA region.
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