Beyond Non-Registration: Women Opting for Cohabitation in Tunis

In: Sociology of Islam

In light of the negative social and legal consequences they might face, women in Muslim majority countries who enter into an intimate relationship without concluding a state-registered marriage are often considered victims of unscrupulous men. Usually this refers to unregistered ‘urfi (religious-only) marriages, as very little attention is paid to women engaging in cohabitation. Whereas non-marriage is generally framed as ‘waithood’ (the inability to marry) and hence as a negative choice, some women in Tunis opt for cohabitation, as they expect this to positively influence their relationship and potential future marriage as more equal and honest. These women express an ethical stance that does not fit society’s dominant normative framework and present themselves as liberal secular Tunisians. They take an ambivalent position on state-registered marriage, as they are critical of how Tunisian marriages are currently lived, but they do recognize the value of registration. Their rejection of ‘urfi marriage as against the law, gender unequal, and Salafi-inspired confirms their liberal secular sense of personhood.

  • Adely Fida (2016). A different kind of love: Compatibility (insijam) and marriage in Jordan. Arab Studies Journal24(2): 102127.

  • Al-Ali Nadje Ali Zahra and Isabel Marler (2016). Reflections on Authoring the Chapter on Young Women for the 2016 Arab Human Development Report. Jadaliyya 9 December 2016 [online]. Available at: http://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/33813/Reflections-on-Authoring-the-Chapter-on-Young-Women-for-the-2016-Arab-Human-Development-Report. Last accessed on 3 December 2017.

  • Arabi Oussama (2001). Studies in Modern Islamic Law and Jurisprudence. Leiden: Brill.

  • Asad Talal (1986). The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam. Occasional Papers Series. Washington DC: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University.

    • Export Citation
  • Assaad Ragui Ghazouani Samir and Krafft Caroline (2017). Marriage Fertility and Women’s Agency in Tunisia. Economic Research Forum Working Paper No. 1157.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BBC (2017). Tunisian women free to marry non-Muslims 15 September 2017 [online]. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-41278610. Last accessed on 3 December 2017.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bourdieu Pierre (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Charrad Mounira (2007). Tunisia at the Forefront of the Arab World: Two Waves of Gender Legislation. Washington and Lee Law Review64(4): 15131527.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cheikh Mériam (2011). Les filles qui sortent, les filles qui se font: attitudes transgressives pour conduites exemplaires. Maghreb et Sciences Sociales Théme 1: 3544.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Connolly Jennifer (2009). Forbidden intimacies. Christian-Muslim intermarriage in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. American Ethnologist 36(3): 492–506. DOI:10.1111/j.1548-1425.2009.01175.x.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fehki El Shereen (2015). The Arab Bed Spring? Sexual rights in troubled times across the Middle East and North Africa. Reproductive Health Matters23(46): 3844. DOI:10.1016/j.rhm.2015.11.010.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fadil Nadia (2011). Not-/ unveiling as an ethical practice. Feminist Review98: 83109. DOI:10.1057/fr.2011.12.

  • Fadil Nadia and Fernando Mayanthi (2015). Rediscovering the “everyday” Muslim: Notes on an anthropological divide. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory5(2): 5988. DOI:10.14318/hau5.2.005.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fortier Corinne Kreil Aymon and Maffi Irene (2016). The trouble of love in the Arab world: Romance, marriage, and the shaping of intimate lives. Arab Studies Journal24(2): 96101.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Grami Amel (2008). Gender Equality in Tunisia. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies35(3): 349361. DOI:10.1080/13530190802525148.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hasso Frances (2011). Consuming Desires: Family Crisis and the State in the Middle East. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

  • Hirschkind Charles (2006). The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counter Publics. New York: Columbia University Press.

  • Honwana Alcinda (2012). The Time of Youth: Work Social Change and Politics in Africa. Boulder: Kumarian Press.

  • Kreil Aymon (2016). The price of love: Valentine’s day in Egypt and its enemies. Arab Studies Journal24(2): 128146.

  • Mahmood Saba (2001). Feminist Theory, Embodiment, and the Docile Agent: Some Reflections on the Egyptian Islamic Revival. Cultural Anthropology16(2): 202236. DOI:10.1525/can.2001.16.2.202.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mahmood Saba (2005). Politics of Piety. The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • Marks Monica (2013). Women’s Rights before and after the Revolution. In Gana Nouri (ed.) The Making of the Tunisian Revolution pp. 224251. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Massy Perrine (2016). Tunisia’s single mothers still struggle to overcome stigma. Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East 2 February 2016 [online]. Available at: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/home.html. Last accessed on 3 December 2017.

  • Mervin Sabrina (2008). Normes religieuses et loi du silence: le marriage temporaire chez les chiites du Liban. In Drieskens Barbara (ed.) Les metamorphoses du marriage au Moyen-Orient pp. 97118. Beyrouth: IFPO.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moors Annelies (1999). Debating Islamic Family Law: Legal Texts and Social Practices. In Meriwether Marlee and Judith Tucker (eds.) The Social History of Women and Gender in the Modern Middle East pp. 141175. Boulder: Westview Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moors Annelies (2013). Unregistered Islamic marriages: Anxieties about sexuality and Islam in the Netherlands. In Berger Maurits (ed.) Applying Shari’a in the West: facts fears and the future of Islamic rules on family relations in the West pp. 141164. Leiden: Leiden University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Murphy Emma (2003). Women in Tunisia: Between State Feminism and Economic Reform. In Doumato Eleanor and Marsha Pususney (ed.) Women and Globalization in the Arab Middle East: Gender Economy and Society pp. 169194. Boulder: Lyanne Rienner.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schielke Samuli (2009). Ambivalent Commitments: Troubles of Morality, Religiosity and Aspiration among Young Egyptians. Journal of Religion in Africa39: 158185. DOI:10.1163/157006609x427814.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schielke Samuli (2010). Second thoughts about the anthropology of Islam or how to make sense of grand schemes in everyday life. ZMO Working Paper. Berlin: Zentrum Moderner Orient.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schielke Samuli (2012). Being a nonbeliever in a time of Islamic revival: Trajectories of doubt and certainty in contemporary Egypt. International Journal of Middle East Studies44: 301320. DOI: 10.1017/s0020743812000062.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schielke Samuli (2015). Living with unresolved differences: A reply to Fadil and Fernando. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory5(2): 8992. DOI: 10.14318/hau5.2.006.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Shahrani Shahreena (2010). The Social (Re) Construction of ‘Urfi Marriage. [MA thesis The Ohio State University].

  • Singerman Diane (2007). The Economic Imperatives of Marriage: Emerging Practices and Identities among Youth in the Middle East . Middle East Youth Initiative Working Paper 6. Wolfensohn Center for Development and Dubai School of Government.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tchaïcha Jane and Arfaoui Khedija (2012). Tunisian women in the twenty-first century: past achievements and present uncertainties in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution. The Journal of North African Studies17(2): 215238. DOI:10.1080/13629387.2011.630499.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vigh Henrik (2009). Motion squared: A second look at the concept of social navigation. Anthropological Theory9(4): 419438. DOI:10.1177/1463499609356044.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Voorhoeve Maaike (2014). Informal Transactions with the police: The Case of Tunisian “Sex Crimes.” Middle East Law and Governance6: 123. DOI:10.1163/18763375-00602001.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Voorhoeve Maaike (2015). Women’s Rights in Tunisia and the Democratic Renegotiation of an Authoritarian Legacy. The New Middle Eastern Studies5: 116.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Voorhoeve Maaike (2018). Law and Social Change in Tunisia: The Case of Unregistered Marriage. Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 0: 1–19.

  • Welchman Lynn (2007). Women and Muslim Family Laws in Arab States: A Comparative Overview of Textual Development and Advocacy. Amsterdam: ISIM / Amsterdam University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zeghal Malika (2013). Competing Ways of Life: Islamism, Secularism, and Public Order in the Tunisian Transition. Constellations20(2): 254274. DOI:10.1111/cons.12038.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zemni Sami (2016). From Revolution to Tunisianité: Who is the Tunisian People? Middle East Law and Governance8: 131150. DOI:10.1163/18763375-00802002.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 140 130 10
Full Text Views 119 112 4
PDF Downloads 19 15 3