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Tunisia Lifts Ban on Muslim Women Marrying non-Muslims | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Women look at sale signs at a shop in central Mehdia,Tunisia, Aug 17, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

Tunisia- The Tunisian government lifted on Thursday the ban on Muslim women marrying non-Muslim foreigners, a step that triggered a legal and social controversy among conservative Islamic blocs and liberal and left-wing blocs.

“Congratulations to the women of Tunisia for the enshrinement of the right to the freedom to choose one’s spouse,” presidency spokeswoman Saida Garrach posted on Thursday.

The announcement came a month after President Beji Caid Essebsi called for the government to lift the ban dating back to 1973, preventing Muslim Tunisian women from marrying a non-Muslim.

In a related matter, the opposition and civil society in Tunisia have expressed concerns over the democratic transition after the parliament enacted a controversial amnesty law for those involved in corruption during the former regime term.

Monica Marks, a researcher at Oxford University, said the law’s passage was “a huge symbolic victory for impunity. It signals a green light, from the top of Tunisia’s state institutions to individuals engaged in abuses of power.”

The bill grants an amnesty to businessmen and Ben Ali officials on trial for corruption, in exchange for returning ill-gotten money plus paying a fine. In the face of growing public anger, the text was revised to cover only officials accused of involvement in administrative corruption, not those who received bribes.

The presidency defended the law, saying it would enhance the investment climate in a country undergoing an economic crisis.

“The law applies to around 2,000 senior officials who did not receive any bribes,” cabinet director Selim Azzabi said to AFP, adding it would affect people who “received instructions and applied them without profiting.” He said the law could boost Tunisia’s economic growth up to 1.2 percent.

Others say it could even represent a return to authoritarian practices. Amna Guellali of Human Rights Watch said the law “risks perpetuating practices inherited from the old regime” and places the young democracy on a bad slope.

Nidaa Tounes, which includes members of the former regime, welcomed the adoption of the law as it paves the way for a new stage of reconciliation and union.

“Ultimately, Ennahda – despite being the party most persecuted by the old regime, including old regime officials likely to be amnestied by the Reconciliation Law – prefers to preserve coalition with Nidaa Party,” Marks said.