Gender Equality in Tunisia

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Flag of Tunisia
Population (in Mil.) 10.78
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 45.24
Sex Ratio (m/f) 0.99
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.054794521
Fertility Rate 2.03
Estimated Earned Income (f/m)
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 34.4
Women in Parliament (in %) 26.7
Human Development Index 94/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index 22/86
Gender Inequality Index 94/186
Gender Equity Index 168/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 49/128
Global Gender Gap Index /68
More information on variables

Social Institutions

Tunisia is a unique example of successful reform in an Arab and Muslim country. Within a few months in 1956, the government changed the former family code and accelerated the enrolment of girls in primary and secondary schools. By the 1980s, enrolment rates for both girls and boys were very high. The 1956 reform banned polygamy and repudiation, promoted consensual marriage and introduced equal divorce proceedings.

Family Code

Tunisian women have a high degree of protection in relation to family matters. In 1964, the government raised the legal age of marriage to 20 years for men and 17 years for women (it was previously fixed at 18 years for men and 15 years for women). Today, practises of early marriage and polygamy have virtually disappeared, which is significant considering that in 1960 some 48% of women were married before the age of 20. According to a 2004 United Nations report, only 3% of girls between 15 and 19 years were married, divorced or widowed.

As a result of further reform in 1993, parental authority is now shared between women and men. Wives and husbands jointly manage the family life, including the raising of their children, and both contribute to the household expenditures and joint investments. In the event of divorce, both parents have the same rights over children, regardless of who is awarded custody. The government has established a fund to pay subsidies to divorced women whose husbands default on child-support payments.

Despite the reforms, inequalities remain evident in inheritance rights, which are governed by Islamic Sharia law. Muslim women may inherit from their father, mother, husband or children and, under certain conditions, from other family members. However, their share is generally smaller than that to which men are entitled. Daughters, for example, inherit only half as much as sons. This is typically justified by the argument that women have no financial responsibility towards their husbands and children. Contrary to Sharia law, Tunisian law states that if a father has no sons, the inheritance passes to his daughter(s) rather than to his own family.

Physical Integrity

Legislation in Tunisia provides a very high level of protection for the physical integrity of women. The legal framework includes specific punishments for violence against women. However, domestic violence is generally viewed as a private issue and the police typically refuse to intervene. On a more positive note, the state has established a public fund to provide temporary financial aid to married women who leave abusive husbands. The fund provides helps to support these women until a court decides upon the proper compensation due to them by their husbands. Tunisian law also regulates the compensation that battered women receive from their ex-husbands. Further, a new law passed in 1993 abolished a previous provision that considered adultery as justifiable grounds for granting pardon to enraged husbands who killed their wives.

Female genital mutilation has never been a general practise in Tunisia. The country’s sex ratio is slightly in favour of boys, suggesting there may be some incidence of missing women (including infants, young girls and teenagers). This small bias probably results from less care being given to young girls, rather than sex-selective abortion.

Civil Liberties

Women in Tunisia have full civil liberty. There are no constraints on women’s freedom of movement, and they have full freedom of dress. Many women choose to wear the veil in private enterprises or public spaces; however, it is strictly forbidden for women who work in public administration (during working hours).

Ownership Rights

Legislation supports full financial independence of women in Tunisia. They have equal access to land and access to property other than land.

Legally, women also have equal access to bank loans and can buy, sell and borrow freely. In reality, some banks still refuse credit to women unless they have first acquired the consent of their husbands.


  • Agence Canadienne de Développement International (2001), Gender Profile, Tunisia ; Ottawa.

Annuaire Statistique de l’Afrique du Nord ( de 1984 à 1997), éditions du CNRS, Paris.

  • Borrmans,M. (1977), Statut personnel et famille au Maghreb, de 1940 à nos jours. Moutosn, Paris.
  • Chekir, H. (2000), Le statut de la femme entre les textes et les résistances : le cas de la Tunisie. Editions Chama, Tunis.
  • Klasen, K. and C. Wink (2003), “Missing Women”: Revisiting the Debate, Feminist Economics 1/2003, Volume 9, Issue 2-3.
  • Minai, N . (1981), Women in Islam. Seaview Books, New-York.
  • Morrisson, C. et B.Talbi (1996), La croissance de l’économie tunisienne en longue période. Etudes du Centre de Développement, OCDE, Paris.
  • OECD (2006), The Gender, Institutions and Development Database,
  • Rhoodie, E.M. (1989), Discrimination against Women : a Global Survey of the Economic, Educational, Social and Political Status of Women, chapter 23. Mc Farland, Jefferson, NC.
  • Tessler, M. (1978), Women’s Emancipation in Tunisia; in Women in the Muslim World; L.Beck and N.Keddie (eds), Harvard University Press.

The Africa for Women's Rights Campaign


Key facts

  • CEDAW: ratified in 1985 with a general declaration and reservations to articles 9(2), 16 and 15(4)
  • CEDAW Protocol: ratified in 2008
  • Maputo Protocol: not signed, not ratified

The Campaign

On 8 March 2009 the "Africa for Women's Rights" Campaign was launched at the initiative of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in collaboration with fove non-governmental regional organisations: the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies(ACDHRS), Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) and Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA). These organisations make up the Steering Committee responsible for the coordination of the Campaign.

The Campaign aims to put an end to discrimination and violence against women in Africa, calling on states to ratify international and regional instruments protecting women's rights, to repeal all discriminatory laws, to adopt laws protecting the rights of women and to take all necessary measures to wensure their effective implementation.

Country Focus: Tunisia

Although Tunisia has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), it entered a general declaration stating that only those provisions that are consistent with the Tunisian Constitution will be applied. Tunisia also entered reservations to the following articles: art. 9(2) concerning transmission of nationality; art. 16 concerning marriage and inheritance; and art. 15(4) concerning the choice of residence. The Coalition of the Campaign underlines that these reservations violate international law in that they are incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention.

The Coalition of the Campaign also regrets that Tunisia has not ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

The Coalition is particularly concerned by the following continued violations of women’s rights in Tunisia: the unequal status of the woman in the family and marriage; limited access to inheritance, higher education and political and public life; and insufficient access to and implementation of laws on violence and sexual harassment at the workplace.

Read more


  • Focal Points: ATFD, LTDH
  • CEDAW Committee recommandations, June 2002
  • Juriste Tunisie

The Women, Business and the Law

Where are laws equal for men and women?  

The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court.Read more about the methodology.

For detailed information on Tunisia, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law Tunisia


In the press

Tunisia is the first country in the region to withdraw reservations regarding CEDAW

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