Congrès Mondial des Études sur le Moyen-Orient et l'Afrique du Nord

Barcelone du 19 au 24 Juillet 2010


FAMILY LAW IN THE MENA - 1/2 (192) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED institution: University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Maaike Voorhoeve

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: This panel is the first in a series on Family law in the MENA. Family law is a delicate topic in the MENA. It is the battle field between ''traditionalist'' and ''progressive'' social groups, and a sensitive issue in political debates. This panel treats family law in different contexts: both the society and the court. Arzoo Osanloo focuses on contemporary legal, social and religious (jurisprudential) debates in Iran. Massimo di Ricco treats women activism of the Druze community in Lebanon. Jessica Carlisle discusses judicial practices in the field of divorce in Morocco, and Sarah Vincent treats the role of evidence in the Tunisian divorce court.

Chair: Maaike Voorhoeve (University of Amsterdam)

Paper presenter: Sarah Vincent (London School of Economics), “Proof and Prejudice: The role of Evidence in a Tunisian Divorce Court”
Tunisia’s 1956 Personal Status Code (PSC) granted women equal rights to divorce and represented a considerable step towards achieving gender equality and redefining gender relations. On the one hand, the silence of the law concerning the definition of marriage, which underpins claims of prejudice leading to divorce, has allowed gender inequalities to persist (although not inevitably) in practice. On the other hand, the litigant’s experience of their divorce case is intimately bound up with their ability to produce evidence of the harm they have suffered. This is especially true in cases of divorce for prejudice, where legally acceptable evidence is required in order for the judge to pronounce a divorce. There are also implications for the divorce settlement, as far as both financial compensation and child custody are concerned.
Evidence, therefore, plays a crucial role in enabling litigants to access their divorce rights when the law is translated into practice. In contrast to other Islamic legal traditions, it is written evidence that plays a major role in the contemporary Tunisian legal system. As the grounds for divorce are gendered in practice and often refer to articles elsewhere in the PSC, the production of related evidence is equally gendered. Which documents are produced in cases of divorce for prejudice? Which of these convince the judge? How do litigants understand and relate to these documents?
Against a backdrop of data collected via interviews with litigants, lawyers and judges, as well as archival research in divorce files in the court of Ben Arous, a suburb of Tunis, this paper will draw on one particular case study in order to illuminate how evidence underpins the litigant’s experience of divorce for prejudice.
Both the silence in the law concerning (the lack of) a definition of marriage and the gaps between the use of evidence in the legal code versus the requirements of proof in practice, give rise to a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety for litigants. These anxieties play out along gender lines due to the gendered production of evidence and profoundly mark the litigant’s experience of their divorce case.

Paper presenter: Arzoo Osanloo (Law, Societies & Justice Program, University of Washington), “What a Focus on 'Family' means in the Islamic Republic of Iran”
This paper will examine the contemporary legal, social and religious (jurisprudential) debates over the current revisions to Iran's Family Protection Act. By highlighting the differential tenor of these debates in various sectors of Iranian society, this paper will reveal the tensions over women's status and rights in Iranian society, the role of law in shaping that status from 'above,' and finally, the disparate groups claiming authority to define women's roles in the Iranian social order. This paper will connect such debates to the broader contests over legitimacy and authority in governance in an Islamic republic that is moving closer to a consolidation of power by certain groups.

Paper presenter: Ph.D. Massimo Di Ricco (UNESCO Chair for Mediterranean Intercultural Dialogue, University of Tarragona), “Reclaiming Changes within the Community Public Sphere: Druze Women Activism, Personal Status Law and the Quest for an Extended Citizenship”
On fall 2006 the Lebanese Druze community undertook an important reform of its main institutions along with the election of a new sheikh al-aql, the main community religious authority. Pushed by the implementation of new and functioning institutions, a group of Druze women started to publicly reclaim changes within the community by addressing communal authorities on the need to undertake a reform of the personal status law, which they consider as discriminatory with respect to women. By analyzing the claims, forms of actions and achievements of these Druze women activists, this communication aims to shed light on the importance of what is possible to define as “communal activism”, also in consideration of the fact that on many issues the state is left out from mingling within the community sphere, as it is the case of community family law. On the other side, the communication wants to underline the importance of an active and developed community public sphere with well-functioning institutions. The paper aims to generally suggest that the role implicitly given by the political system to Lebanese individuals is to act between the multiple Lebanese public spheres, hence playing a form of extended citizenship.