Formation of a New Gender Order in Tunisia after the Revolution

The research for this project, which was embedded in the Cluster of Excellence’s thematic focus “Post/Secularism,” examined the newly negotiated gender order in post-revolutionary Tunisia. After extensive political wrangling and disputes, the transformation period ended with the ratification of the “new” Tunisian constitution of the “second” republic on 26 January 2014. Sonia Zayed worked with women parliamentarians from the Islamist Ennahda Party who participated in the constitutional national assembly and she observed decision-making processes within the Party.
The Tunisian gender order is defined by traditional customs, religion and seemingly unshakeable hierarchies. In this regard, patriarchal elites resist a process of social change that is being demanded by the country’s youth. This was the conviction that informed the Tunisian revolution. It is an issue that is intimately bound up with issues of law, economics and social policy.
Interviews were conducted to form a picture of the status quo with regard to the prevailing gender order in Tunisian society. Sonia Zayed’s own social position as a woman who wears a head-scarf played a central role, enabling her to gain the trust of women members of the Ennahda Party almost immediately, trust that would certainly not have been extended as readily to a male researcher. As a practicing Muslim and a scholar, she also won the respect of her male interviewees, who as a result answered questions they otherwise might not have. Yet, her particular social position also set limits to her work. The secular women’s rights activists from the “Association des Femmes Démocrates” refused to answer her research questions because they regarded her headscarf as a political symbol. For this reason she had to narrow her research question somewhat and focus on the women’s wing of the most prominent Islamist party in Tunisia.
The research results highlight the female actors’ rigid understanding of Islam and the persistence of traditional conceptions of roles. It is women who justify mechanisms of oppression and impose them on the youth. Islamists regard the patriarchal family as the foundation of Tunisian society and consider a father’s orders as not subject to challenge. Pre-marital sex on the part of women is seen as a punishable crime, whereas sex outside of marriage is only regarded as a trivial offence for men. The virginity cult is assuming increasingly bizarre forms and has resulted in the spread of practices such as anal sex between men and unmarried women, and has promoted the establishment of medical clinics specialized in the production and implantation of artificial hymens. Homosexuals have been forced underground and are prosecuted by the law. Divorced women are stigmatized and branded as “hard sells.” Moreover, Tunisian society has seen a marked rise in sexual violence, for which victims seldom press charges since the police almost always blame the victims.
In sum, the double standards analyzed in this study pose a serious problem for Tunisian women. Individual rights that protect women must be enforced in future, in particular against the normative encroachments of orthodox Muslims and the extremely influential Salafis.
The research results are currently being written up with the aim of submitting them as a PhD dissertation by the end of 2017.

Early results of the project were published as:

Schröter, Susanne and Sonia Zayed: “Tunesien: Vom Staatsfeminismus zum revolutionären Islamismus“, in: S. Schröter (ed.): Geschlechtergerechtigkeit durch Demokratisierung? Transformationen und Restaurationen von Genderverhältnissen in der islamischen Welt, Bielefeld: Transcript, 2013, pp. 17–44.


People in this project:

  • Project director / contact
    • Schröter, Susanne, Prof. Dr. | Profile
  • Project members


Publications of this project:

  • Schröter, Susanne (2017): Normenkonflikte in pluralistischen Gesellschaften. Normative Orders Bd. 21, Frankfurt am Main: Campus.
    Details
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2017): Aleppo: Meltdown of Humanity. December 15. Muslim Mirror and Politics of West Asia and North Africa. This article has also appeared in Eurasia Review under the title Aleppo: Symbol Of Action And Inaction and in International Policy Digest, The Jerusalem Post and Daily Hunt News.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2017): Assad and the rise of ISIS. Orient News. March 10. This article has also featured on different websites and journals such as Mashreq Politics & Culture Journal and Qantara.de.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2017): Russia-affiliated foreigners fighting for Assad. Orient News. March 24. This article has also featured on different websites and journals such as Mashreq Politics & Culture Journal.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2017): Assad’s heavy reliance on foreigners. Orient News English. March 17. This article has also featured on different websites and journals such as Mashreq Politics & Culture Journal.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2017): Escaping military conscription: One way of opposing Assad. Orient News. April 16. This article has also featured on the Mashreq Politics & Culture Journal.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2017): Competition over Ideological Power in Egypt. January 03. International Policy Digest.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2017): Radicalisation in Europe: Between prevention and instrumentalisation of religion. Eurasia Review. February 21. This article also appeared in International Policy Digest, Orient News and EastWest.eu.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2017): Controversy Of Islamist Politics On Other Belief Systems – Analysis. January 23. Eurasia Review. This article has also appeared in Mashreq Politics & Culture Journal and The Arab Daily News.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2017): Why global Jihadism remains notoriously in spotlight today. Orient News. March 02. This article also appeared on the mashreq Politics & Culture Journal.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2016): Political transformation in the Arab world: Forget the people. July 11. Qantara.de
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2016): Saudi Political Intolerance. January 24. Eurasia Review. This article was also published by Muslim Mirror and by International Policy Digest on January 26. It has also featured on The Daily Journalist and the Mashreq Politics and Culture Journal
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2016): Saudi Arabia And Iran Rivalry Not About The Victim But The Aggressor. January 30. Eurasia Review. This article has also featured in Mashreq Politics and Culture Journal, Sicherheitspolitik-Blog, The Daily Journalist, Muslim Mirror and International Policy Digest. This was also republished in The Daily Asian Age on January 31 under the title: Saudi and Iran rivalry turns sharp.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2016): Beyond asylum: Syrian artists in Europe. March 02. YME. This article was also featured on International Policy Digest on March 03 under the title: Art Beyond Asylum. It has also apeared on Eurasia Review and the Mashreq Politics and Culture Journal.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Khatib, Hakim (2016): The Taboo Of Atheism In Egypt. The Secular World Magazine. Second Quarter: 2016. pp. 17-18.
    Details
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2016): Breaking the taboo - Atheism In Egypt. January 06. Qantara.de. This article was published by International Policy digest and Eurasia Review on January 23, The Daily Journalist on February 04 and Patheos – The Secular Spectrum on February 04
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2016): Perfect Assassination of Jordanian Writer. September 28. Muslim Mirror. This article also appeared in International Policy Digest, Almasdar
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2016): Cultural Bridging in Amman: Grassroots Projects with Scarce Resources. March 22. International Policy Digest. This article was also featured on The Daily Journalist on March 22. This article was also published by YME under the title An emerging inter-cultural space in downtown Amman on March 23. This article was republished by Qantas.de under the title: ″Naqsh″ – the Arabic cultural cafe – Amman’s bridge builders
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2016): Terrorist attacks in Brussels – a clash of what?. Qantara.de. March 23. This article has also featured on the Mashreq Politics & Culture Journal, Eurasia Review, Qantara.de, International Policy Digest, Sicherheitspolitik and Middle East Monitor.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2016): Egypt’s controversial blasphemy law strikes down on free Islamic thought. January 06. YME. This article was republished by Eurasia Review on January 07 under the title The controversy of blasphemy in Egypt, by Egyptian Streets on January 08 and printed by Egypt25 on January 08. This article was republished by The Jerusalem Post on January 09, by Sicherheitspolitik-Blog on January 15, by The Daily Journalist on February 02, and by International Policy Digest under the title Don’t Blaspheme in Egypt on January 15. This article has been reprinted by The Asian Age and the Mashreq Politics and Culture Journal
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2016): Turmoil in the Middle East: Regional Dimensions Beyond Religion. August 24. Almasdar News. This article has also appeared in the Mashreq Politics & Culture Journal, Eurasia Review, Sicherheitspolitik-Blog, International Policy Digest and The Daily Arab News. This article has been reprinted by Indian Strategic Studies and Journal Digest.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2015): 2011 Tahrir Square Demonstrations in Egypt: Semantic Structures That Unify And Divide, CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 2
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2015): Redefining the “Syrian” conflict. November 11. Qantara. This article was reprinted by Journal Digest. This article has also appeared in Daily News Egypt, The Jerusalem Post, Eurasia Review, The Mashreq Politics & Culture Journal and Masers News.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Open-Access-Logo Khatib, Hakim (2014): Mobilisation and Contestation Between Egyptian Student Movement and the State. Mashreq Politics & Culture Journal and WANA Politics. February 21.
    Details | Link to full text


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