Arab Feminism

Between secular and Islamic models

Authored by: Soumaya Mestiri

Routledge Handbook of Postcolonial Politics

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138944596
eBook ISBN: 9781315671192
Adobe ISBN:


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The feminism that is defended, valued and studied nowadays in Tunisia, since the independence of the country, is broadly speaking the feminism that one could have found in France in the 1970s. Then, the Mouvement de Libération des Femmes (MLF), which can be translated as ‘Women’s Liberation Movement’, was struggling for sexual equality. 1 At that time and for a long time, Tunisia was the first and only Muslim country to promulgate a specific Code, the CSP (Code on Personal Status) which established the basic rights of women (abolition of polygamy, creation of a legal proceeding for divorce, etc.). But it was and still is a white and secular feminism that was promoted by the postcolonial and anticlerical elite who worked for decades on implementing a state feminism. They exhibited a kind of ornamental concern for women designed to reassure Western partners: ‘we are a dictatorship but we are obviously feminist so we can’t be that bad.’

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