EUME Berliner Seminar
Wed 01 Jun 2016 | 17:00–18:30

The Production of Law in the Field of Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Tunisia

Maaike Voorhoeve (Amsterdam / EUME Fellow of the AVH Foundation 2015-17), Chair: Imen Gallala-Arndt (Max-Planck-Institut für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht, Hamburg)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Since 2011, polemics related to the intersection between sexuality and law have been dominating the Tunisian public sphere. Some of these came up after recent court rulings which are deemed particularly 'conservative', a phenomenon that public intellectuals and women's rights activists ascribe to the rise to power of the Islamist movement Ennahda.
This paper questions the hypothesis that democratization has led to conservative court practices. On the basis of field research carried out in Tunisian courts before 2011 (in 2008 and 2009), it aims to show that the general image of Tunisia as a 'modernist', 'progressive' and 'secular' country was inaccurate where court practice in the field of male-female relations and sexuality was concerned. The discrepancy between positive law ('law in the books') and judicial practice (the 'law in action') can be explained by the fact that Tunisian legislation, part of which dates back to 1913, was not produced democratically and failed to take into account public opinion on what law should be. 

Maaike Voorhoeve received her PhD in law at the University of Amsterdam (2011) after which she held post-doc positions at Harvard Law School, the Rechtskulturen Programme of the Forum Transregionale Studien, and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Voorhoeve is currently a EUME fellow with a scholarship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She published two books: an edited volume on family law in the MENA (Family law in the Muslim World, IB Tauris, 2011, 2nd ed. 2016) and her dissertation (Gender and Divorce law in North Africa, IB Tauris, 2014). Voorhoeve works on the legal consequences of the Tunisian 2011 regime change, focusing on legal practice and public debates relating to gender, sexuality, constitutional law, and transitional justice.

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