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10th Annual Conference

The Impact of Globalisation on Mediterranean Countries
A Women's Perspective

July 12-14, 2002 - Marrakech, Morocco

Women in movement in the EURO-MAGHREBIAN space.
Donne in movimento nell'area euro-magrebina

Anissa Smati

The Algerian family is nowadays in a crossroads. It will be submitted to deep mutations in the future, when crossing the third millennium and being integrated into the EURO-MAGHREBIAN space.
The changes should be operated on women's status, and the legislation should be revised in this way too. In fact, the third millennium is bringing values that are not new but nevertheless vigorous.
The reinforcement of women's rights, considering then equal to men; the rejection of discrimination toward women and the fight against all types of violence to them are irrefutable principles.

Many debates concerning the universality of these values took place and ideological oppositions have been expressed, but the process of women's emancipation all around the world - even if slower in some regions - gives a view of future tendencies that will unrelentingly consecrate the equality between both sexes.

In ALGERIA and MAGHREB in general, this tendency will be realized when women conditions will be submitted to the EURO-MAGHREBIAN space. As long as the perception of the Algerian family cell will not cross the national borders, it will stay submitted to the contradictory tendencies that it is facing now; - traditions against modernism - and women's status will suffer from the tensions existing because of this opposition.

In the traditional system marked by religious taboos, women are still considered inferior to men and kept in minority conditions, whereas this discrimination disappears in the work legislation which emblem relies on freedom and equity.

These contradictions can no longer exist in a world that pleads homogeneity between men and women and where each person is considered in its individuality as an economical agent not as a member belonging to a group.

When integrated into the EURO-MAGHREBIAN space, the Algerian family will enter in a multinational dimension: actually, its nature will change and the family members will have the choice to live outside ALGERIA or to have another nationality. These changes will create new juridical situations that need unified and simplified rules. The status of Algerian women will, for sure, improve and modern values will replace anachronistic rules.

The mutation of the Algerian family cell has already started, not only in urban areas but also in rural ones; and the family cell is a proof of these changes. This evolution consecrates women's place in the family and asks the question of her juridical status in the society.
But as we have pointed it above, the woman condition in ALGERIA faces the problem of the 1egislation's contradiction which submits her sometimes to an anachronistic system and sometimes to a vanguard order, and this can lead to deep tensions in the family cell.

The Algerian constitution oscillates between these oppositions; In the one hand, and m affirming in its 2nd article that ISLAM is the religion of the state, it proves the strong link existing between the Algerian law and the CHARIA, strengthening -by the way- the family code and giving it a legal statute. This idea is also expressed in the 9th article part 3 which states that contradictory practices to ISLAM should be avoided by the institutions. On the other hand, the constitution in its 29th article consecrates the, equity principle and states that all Algerian are equal in law refusing thus discrimination especially based on sexes difference.

These contradictions put women in a dilemma:
  • in onehand, they are submitted to dispositions that admit inequality between sexes.
  • On the other hand, other dispositions consider them equal to men.

    And as a result, this situation gives a consideration and legality to the family code that holds antiquated and discriminatory ideas.

    Many examples can be taken as illustration: The status of minor given to women is no longer in doubt. If her consent is required to contract a marriage, she must be accompanied by her legal tutor "WALI" who is her father, brother or in ultimate cases the judge. And the articles 12 and 16 of the family code confirm the minor status of women by submitting them to their husband's authority after getting married.

    This situation will consequently have negative effects on women's relation with their male relatives they will certainly suffer from discrimination and in extreme cases be plundered from their rights. Thus, in succession matters, a woman inherits half-part whereas her brother inherits one part. For witnessing, a man voice owes two women voices when the 29th article of the constitution claims all citizens equal in rights no matters their race, sex, opinion .....Last but not least, if a man can marry four women, the inverse situation is not possible.

    This minimization of women's rights is also evident in divorce cases. A man cannot ask for divorce, only her husband does and without any justification.

    She cannot marry a non-Muslim, and if she does her situation has any legal value.

    However, there are some dispositions in the family code that give women a total liberty in managing their patrimony showing the oppositions that exist in the legislation.
    Marriage is submitted to the separation of wealth regimen and the 38th article gives her the right to trade.

    These contradictions are due to the ambiguity that surrounds the concepts of majority and minority.
    Actually, it is important to underline that the civil code gives the civil majority at the age of 19 when the vote is possible at the age of 18. The other law corpus managing the political and economical life show no discrimination and apply the equity principle.
    One of the examples is the work legislation and the law n.90-11 that gives equa1 rights to all workers no matter their sex. In the educational, political and health fields the discrimination doesn't exist either.

    The question that is asked is whether these contradictions will not create a conflict that will stop the legis1ation's evolution and spoil all women's chances to gain their freedom.

    If this coexistence of contradictions is possible in law, the situation is different in the daily life and the evolution of society imposed by the social and economical changes and overthrows will erase the rules that are inadaptab1e to the modern life, and women's role in society will be enforced.

    To this economical and social changes, the impact of values that marked the end of the last century must be added. Democracy which is an old concept is still having an effect especially on youth; After the 2nd world war, democracy's objective was to erase the racial discrimination; The end of the 20th century has been marked by the will of women to fight against all types of discrimination toward them. In all fields they claimed and still claim their citizenship. And this has been shown to the whole world in PEKIN'S congress where women from each part of the world met to ask for their rights. As a result, women's claims have been heard by international instances and Europe is an illustration. In fact, the European community has sacred the non-discriminatory principles in its legislation and countries belonging to the community were held to respect this rule.

    We can wonder about the fate of the family code that is contradictory to the equity principle; The creation and integration of the EURO-MAGHREBIAN space will certainly have incidence on the Algerian and Maghrebian family.
    The structure of Algerian family as the others will be characterized by its multi-nationality.
    How will different even contradictory juridical situations be managed ? How can the problem of co-existential different juridical systems in the one family be solved ? How - when the European community erased all types of discrimination in its legislation - make credible in this region a principle that considers women for ever minor? How to apply the principles of majority when it varies from a case to another ? In which situation will a woman be considered major and will she become minor when returning to Maghreb ? Will her acts done in Europe be considered void as they are null in her country ?

    If an Algerian woman marries a European non-Muslim man, will she be authorized to give her children her nationality ? The Algerian law forbids it and gives the act of transmitting the nationality only to men.
    All these questions will have an incidence on the members of a family that is parted between Europe and Maghreb.
    Solutions must be found to avoid complex situations that could lead Algerian citizens to find shifts to escape from such antiquated rules.
    Tunisia's experience to modify the rules related to family statute shows that the change is possible.

    The contradictions that exist in the Algerian legislation will certainly disappear under the pressure of women's movements, international instances and with a new economical and social environment where women and the community members will be considered as economical agents.

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