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Kenyon College

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Program Name

Tunisia: Emerging Identities in North Africa


The Personal Status Code became law in Tunisia in 1956, revolutionizing gender law and relationships. This law, development programs and nationalization pushed by President Habib Bourguiba, and modernization and globalization significantly altered the state of Tunisian marriage and gender relationships. Prior to the Personal Status Code, the basis of marriage in Tunisia was the preservation of family relationships, status, and finances. Throughout the last half century, it has evolved from a family-based endeavor to a partnership between two people, as the individual has simultaneously replaced the family and tribe as the main actor in society. These changes are reflected prominently in the marriages of women which have taken place in the last three generations. This paper focuses on the experiences of three generations of women in the Hidri-Khelifa family—Kheira, the oldest generation, her daughter Radhia, and her granddaughter, Maryam. Their generational experiences and opinions on all aspects of marriage—weddings, divorces, family planning, ideals in a partner, education, among others—are telling of the generational gaps which persist in Tunisian society. Kheira’s traditional and conservative values espouse her generation’s beliefs about the necessity of gender roles; Maryam reflects modern beliefs and actions; Radhia is somewhere in the middle, with modern ideals while the practicalities of her life reflect more traditional understandings of gender relationships within marriage. Their experiences reflect upon the nature of the changes in Tunisian society since independence and are telling of the Tunisian woman’s experience throughout that same time period.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change | Sociology of Culture | Sociology of Religion


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