Religious coercion threatens Tunisian women
A number of Tunisian women feel forced to adopt religious practices in attire and behaviour. Experts, however, question the legality and Islamic authenticity of the phenomena.
By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis â€“ 07/01/11 (thanks to the RoP)
- Fitzgerald: Tunisia and the Monitoring of Islam: Tunisian police are stopping women on the streets and asking them to take off their headscarves and to sign a pledge that they will not wear a scarf again. A 1981 Tunisian law prohibits Islamic attire in schools or government offices.
[Jamel Arfaoui] “The case with the veil in Tunisia is a matter of fashion and is the result of influence from certain groups; it’s the herd mentality,” writer Rach Tounsi says.
Rima, a student, breathed a sigh of relief when her mother allowed her to remove the hijab.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for six months,” she says, adding that the experience felt like “long decades”. “My mother forced me to abandon what she considered to be indecent clothes when I returned home at a late hour after attending a friend’s birthday party.”
Like many other Tunisian girls and married women, she was made to obey her family, while facing alienation at school.
“I’ve lived through difficult times at my college. I may be wrong about it, but I felt that my male and female colleagues’ looks were tearing me apart. This made me avoid going to the college for several days, and I could have failed that year if it hadn’t been for the assistance of a female colleague,” she adds.
Even though freedom of conscience is enshrined in Article 5 of the Tunisian constitution, which “protects the free exercise of beliefs with reservation that they do not disturb the public order”, a growing number of women experience coercion in religious practices.
Rabiaa, in her 30s, is one of them. She admits to wearing Islamic garments out of fear of her husband’s violence.
“He threatened to divorce me and to prevent me from seeing my kids if I insisted on my rejection of the veil and cloak,” she tells Magharebia.