Unjustifiable Means to Unjustifiable Ends: Delegitimizing Parliamentary Gender Quotas in Tunisia


gender quotas

How to Cite

Goulding, K. (1). Unjustifiable Means to Unjustifiable Ends: Delegitimizing Parliamentary Gender Quotas in Tunisia. Al-Raida Journal, 71-78. https://doi.org/10.32380/alrj.v0i0.83


The Tunisian government, since independence in 1956, has been a major factor in creating and maintaining space for the women’s movement both in the domestic and political spheres. The state has been the chief agent of change, not only in introducing legislation, but also in seeking to alter the productive and reproductive roles of women (Murphy, 2003) – a process which has been mirrored in other states throughout the Middle East under the blanket term of “state-sponsored feminism” (Murphy, 2003, p.169; Brand, 1998, p. 9). The process of “instigation from above” (Hatem, 1999, p. 78) has both secured the state’s support of women’s right as well as transformed gender into a political instrument. The women’s movement in Tunisia enjoys the ideological and financial backing of the government, and has become part of a political strategy to enhance the legitimacy of the state. In short, the caprices (and benevolence) of President Ben Ali’s ruling Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique (Constitutional Democratic Rally, RCD) have come to define the scope and magnitude of the rights of women, a process through which the feminist agenda has become closely (and dangerously) tied to the ruling party’s political agenda.



Ben Ali, Z. A. (2007, November 7). State of the nation address. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from


Brand, L. (1998). Women, the state, and political liberalization: Middle Eastern and North African experiences. New York: Columbia University Press.

Charrad, M. (2001). States and women’s rights: The making of postcolonial Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. California: University of California Press.

Curtiss, R. H. (1993, September/October). Women’s rights: An affair of State for Tunisia. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from http://www.washingtonreport.org/backissues/0993/9309050.htm

Dahlerup, D. (2005). Increasing women’s political representation: New trends in gender quotas. In A. Karam (Ed.), Women in politics: Beyond numbers (pp. 141-153). Stockholm: International IDEA.

Hachicha, N. C. (2005, Summer). Tunisia’s election was undemocratic at all levels. The Middle East Quarterly, XII(3).

Hatem, M. (1999). Modernization, the state, and the family in Middle East women’s studies. In M. Meriwether & J. Tucker (Eds.), Social history of women and gender in the modern Middle East. (pp. 63-87). Boulder, CO: Westview.

Kandiyoti, D. (1996). Contemporary feminist scholarship and Middle East studies. In D. Kandiyoti (Ed.), Gendering the Middle East (pp. 1-27). New York: I. B. Tauris Publishers.

Kandiyoti, D. (1988, September). Bargaining with patriarchy. Gender and Society, 2(3), 274-290.

Krook, M. L. (2008, Fall). Quota laws for women in politics: Implications for feminist practice. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society, 345-368.

Labidi, L. (2005). Islam and women’s rights in Tunisia. Ministère des Affaires de la femme, de la famille, de l’enfance et des personnes agées. Tunis: Tunisia. 1-13.

Moghadam, V. M. (2005) Tunisia. In S. Nazir and L. Tomppelt (Eds.), Women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Citizenship and justice (pp. 295-312). Freedom House: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc.

Murphy, E. C. (2003). Woman in Tunisia: Between state feminism and economic reform. In E. A. Doumato & M. P. Posusney (Eds.), Women and globalization in the Middle East: Gender, economy and society (pp. 169-193). Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

Tessler, M. A., Rogers. J, & Schneider, D. (1978). Women’s emancipation in Tunisia. In L. Beck & N. R. Keddie (Eds.), Women in the Muslim world (pp. 141-158). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Tinker, I. (2004). Quotas for women in elected legislatures: Do they really empower women? Women’s Studies International Forum (27), 531-546.

UN-INSTRAW. (2005). Women’s political participation in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Retrieved November 10, 2007, http://www.un-instraw.org/en/ggpp/maghreb-project/maghreb-project-2.



Download data is not yet available.