Source: BloombergBy Jihen Laghmari,
Halima Ben Diafi says her brothers spent their summer enjoying Tunisia’s Mediterranean coast while she was stuck in the capital, trying to scrape together enough cash to feed her children.
That’s because the men got all the family money. Their father was fairly prosperous by local standards, and left land and a house worth about $200,000 when he died. But under the country’s inheritance laws, a daughter is only entitled to half of what a son receives. And many women, pressured by their families and communities, end up ceding their share entirely.
Which is what happened to Halima. “I feel helpless and bitter,” she said in the rundown suburb of Tunis where she looks after her bedridden husband and three children. “After receiving all our father’s inheritance, my brothers only care about their own families. They travel. And they’ve forgotten they have sisters.”
In most Arab countries the laws on such matters claim derivation from Islam’s holy texts. Changing them, in a climate where religious extremism has thrived, is a high-risk undertaking. Yet that’s what Tunisia’s 90-year-old President Beji Caid Essebsi is proposing to do — and his call has found echoes across the Muslim world, stoking a wider debate about modernizing Islam.