Everything you need to know about marriage in Tunisia
Tunisia, officially known as the Republic of Tunisia, is a North African country popular for its diverse ethnicity and landscapes. Every year, over 40,000 marriages are celebrated in the country. The country is generally regarded as a civil state, but the official religion of Tunisia is Islam. Over 98% of the people living in the country are Muslims, and the government is referred to as the "guardian of religion" according to the constitution, which shows that the president of the country must be Muslim.
Both civil and religious marriages are recognized and protected under the laws of the country. Foreigners and native Tunisians are also allowed to perform other types of marriages, such as secular or symbolic ones; however, these types are not legally binding in the country. Even though the official religion of Tunisia is Islam, the country is not bound by the principles of sharia law. Muslims in the country are mostly governed by the European Civil Code. This shows that the civil law in the country supersedes other types of religious laws. General Islamic principles such as women having to wear hijabs or polygamy are prohibited in the country.
Women may decide if they want to wear a hijab or not. Marriage must be the result of the free consent of both parties, and the spouses must be at least 18 years old. Couples between the ages of 17 and 18 may be allowed to marry in the country with parental consent. Also, interfaith marriages are allowed in the country, which implies that a Muslim woman can now marry a non-Muslim man, as opposed to the law of many other Muslim-dominated countries, where a Muslim woman must marry a Muslim man. Continue reading to find out more about the marriage laws, rights, and duties of both spouses in Tunisia.
Civil marriages are legally binding in Tunisia. This type of marriage is performed by an authorized officiant or registrar in the registry’s office. Only marriages that are celebrated before an authorized official marriage officiant are legal and recognized in the country. Foreign spouses who are marrying in another country must ensure that they fulfill all the marriage requirements in their home country before proceeding to register their marriage in Tunisia. The law states that a marriage can only happen between a man and a woman.
This can be a Tunisian man and a Tunisian woman, a Tunisian man and a foreign woman and vice versa, or a foreign man and a foreign woman. Also, the minimum marriage age must have been reached by spouses who want to conduct their marriage in Tunisia. They must both be 18 or older. Spouses below this age may be allowed to get married if their parents approve such a marriage. Anyone under the age of 16 cannot legally marry in the country, regardless of whether their parents agree to the marriage. There are certain documents that are required of spouses during the marriage registration process, and they are stated below.
- National Identity Card or valid passport
- Certified copies of the birth certificate Foreign spouses must ensure that their certificate is properly authorized in their home country.
- Affidavit of eligibility to marry. To get married in Tunisia, spouses must show proof that they have the legal capacity to marry in the country. A certificate of no impediment is required so as to ensure there are no obstructions to the marriage. Tunisian spouses can obtain a certificate of no impediment to marriage from the concerned authorities in the country, and foreigners may provide a court-sworn affidavit to serve as evidence that they are currently single and eligible for marriage.
- Medical health certificate. Both spouses are required to submit certificates of medical tests and examinations that will have been provided to them at the registry where they plan to perform the marriage. The health certificate must have been issued recently with a validity period of two months. It must show that the spouses have no underlying diseases or sicknesses that may impede the marriage and prevent it from happening.
- Divorce and death certificate This paperwork must be provided by separated or widowed spouses to show they are no longer in their previous marriage.
- A written consent from the parents. This must be provided by spouses who are under the age of 18 at the time of registering the marriage.
- Both spouses are required to provide two legal witnesses.
Before the marriage is registered, a notice of marriage must have been published by the registrar's office to ensure there are no issues that may result from the union of both spouses, such as one of them still being in a previous relationship. The official language of Tunisia is Arabic, and the documents submitted must be translated into this language. Also, foreign spouses who do not speak this language may have to provide an authorized interpreter during the course of the ceremony. All the documents provided by or issued by foreign authorities must include an apostille to prove their legitimacy.
Religious and traditional marriage
Religious marriages in Tunisia are recognized and protected by law. The population of non-Muslims in the country is less than 2%, implying that the country is dominated by people of the Muslim faith. Sunni Muslims in the country are bound by the civil laws of the country, and although they may practice sharia law, the general laws in the country’s constitution are still to be abided by. In Islam, the Nikah ceremony begins the marriage between two people. It refers to the marriage contract between a bride and a groom.
The marriage contract includes all the terms of marriage, which must be agreed upon by both spouses before they are allowed to get married. Muslim marriage ceremonies may be held in the church or the bride's house. Most times, they are simple ceremonies that just include families and a few friends. After the Nikah ceremony is concluded, some couples may decide to hold a gathering or party to celebrate their new era, where food and drinks are shared and other ceremonial rites are performed.
Marriage traditions in Tunisia
This is a unique tradition in Tunisia that is still popular with some couples to this day. While the marriage preparations are going on, it is customary for the bride to buy various furniture, electrical appliances, and other items that will be used to furnish her new home. Some days before the actual wedding ceremony, a gathering may be held where the bride showcases everything that she has purchased so far to show that she is fully ready and capable of getting married.
This is a very important ceremonial rite in Tunisian weddings. Here, a certain day is chosen when the female friends of the bride as well as her family head to the steam room referred to as the "Hammam." They are accompanied by the bride, who is dressed in traditional Tunisian attire. On their way to the room, it is typical for the woman to sing and cheer the bride. After the Hammam is completed, the bride is left looking clean and fresh, ready for marriage.
Henna is also an important ritual celebrated in Tunisian wedding ceremonies. Here, different beautiful designs are drawn on the hands and feet of the bride by a female elder who is an artist or experienced with drawing henna. The party is attended by the bride's closest friends, and different traditional foods and drinks are shared with the attendees. The henna ceremony is believed to bring good luck to the bride and her family.
Same-sex marriages are illegal in Tunisia. The country does not allow same-sex sexual activities under any circumstances. Individuals who commit this act or marry may face up to three years in prison and fines in the country. This law is referred to as the "anti-sodomy law." There are no discrimination protections offered to same-sex spouses, and they have no rights to adopt children into the family.
Polygamy is illegal in Tunisia. The country was the first Arab state to ban this type of marriage; it was abolished in 1956, and the offense of polygamy in the country is called bigamy. Even though Tunisia is a predominantly Muslim nation, spouses are not allowed to have more than one partner at a time.
Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties
Tunisia is a predominantly Muslim country, with over 98% of the population practicing Islam; the remaining population of less than 2% comprises people of other religions. Despite its Islamic roots, the laws guiding marriage are not founded on Sharia law. In fact, Tunisia is the first Muslim Arab country to abolish the practice of polygamy. Those who violate this law may face penalties such as fines or imprisonment. The legal age for marriage in the country is 20 years for males and 17 years for females; minors may only be allowed to contract marriage under legitimate reasons provided parental consent and a judge's permission are obtained. Customary or religious marriages have no legal value in Tunisia; only civil marriages possess this legal status.
Couples are required to be in a sound state of mind before entering into marriage; they must understand the concept of marriage before giving consent to marriage. Marriage cannot take place without the consent of both parties or if one of the couple is in an unstable state of mind. The consent obtained from both parties must be free and void of any interference from third parties. Forced and child marriages are prohibited in the country. Incestuous marriage is strictly forbidden in Tunisia; couples must not share a common ancestral link or any form of affinity. The couple must be single at the time of marriage. If the couple has previously been married, they both have to present a certificate of divorce or death to prove the nullification of the previous marriage.
Homosexual activity is strictly prohibited in Tunisia; same-sex marriage is not allowed, and offenders are liable to face serious punishment under the law. Couples are not allowed to cohabit under the law; couples have to be officially married to be recognized as husband and wife. Foreigners are allowed to marry in the country provided they have the legal capacity to marry and they provide all required documents, such as identity documents, a certificate of no impediment to marriage, and so on. Foreigners who wish to marry Tunisian nationals are allowed to do so, and such marriages have to be registered with the Tunisian government. Before marriage can be declared legally binding, the couple must provide two witnesses to be present at the time of marriage, and the dowry must have been paid.
Tunisia is famous for making advancements towards the equality of rights for men and women in the country. The legal framework of marriage creates an atmosphere of equality between married couples; however, there are still a number of inequalities based on gender. Until recently, Muslim women in Tunisia did not have the right to marry non-Muslim men until they converted to Islam, but the ban has been lifted, and Muslim men and women alike now have the right to marry non-Muslims without any restrictions.
The couple has the right to participate in different political and socioeconomic activities. The couple has the right to exercise their conjugal rights in marriage, and one spouse may not deny the other this right except in exceptional circumstances. In the event of infidelity or mutual agreement, the couple has the right to file for divorce. The husband does not have the right to divorce his wife without any reason. Both parties have the right to exercise their property and inheritance rights; they both have the right to own property individually as they see fit and to jointly own property under matrimonial community of property. If one of the spouses dies, the right to inherit property goes directly to the surviving spouse.
The couple have the right to sign a prenuptial agreement before marriage is contracted, which states that whatever property is acquired before or during marriage shall not be split between the couple when separation occurs. The couple has the right to work and take on jobs that fit their chosen career paths; however, women are always reminded of their roles in society and often take on low-paying jobs. The couple have the right to bear children and to raise them according to their various moral, religious, and political beliefs. In making decisions that affect the welfare and wellbeing of the family, the husband has the right to make influential decisions without consulting his wife. Couples have the right to report and protect the family from any form of violence or harm that might come to them.
Getting married in Tunisia is an expensive affair. Couples often take the proper time to plan and prepare an effective wedding budget to cover all the expenses of the ceremony. Many couples who do not want to go through the stress of putting together a wedding budget hire the services of wedding planners. The rate at which weddings are celebrated in Tunisia has greatly contributed to the growth of the wedding industry in the country. The average cost of a wedding in Tunisia is around $10,000; more expensive and extravagant weddings cost much more.
Couples often spend millions of dinars just to host a memorable wedding ceremony. Couples see wedding ceremonies as an opportunity to outdo themselves and show off their wealthy and successful statuses. Many Tunisians save for many years, and some take out loans to be able to meet up with societal standards. Couples should expect to spend at least 50% of the budget on the venue of the wedding reception, with the remaining expenses taking up the remaining 50%. The total amount that would be spent on the ceremony is determined by what the couple has in mind to achieve and how much they are willing to let go.
The family is considered to be the nucleus of society; therefore, the husband and wife have various duties to perform for one another and for the family as a whole. The husband and wife have a duty to respect one another and give them good treatment. The couple has a duty to the children in the home; they are obligated to provide a conducive environment for their growth and development and to ensure they receive proper training and an educational upbringing in a bid to make them honest and upstanding citizens of the country.
Women are no longer legally obligated to obey their husbands without questioning. The husband is regarded as the head of the house; therefore, he has an obligation to provide for the needs of the family, as well as his wife and children, and to assume the role of head of the family and exercise his full authority. The woman is only required to contribute to the welfare of the family, provided she has the means. The woman is responsible for all domestic work and management of the household finances.
Tunisia allows both civil and religious marriages. These marriages are not dependent on each other, and spouses can decide to perform either of them. It is also possible to conduct both types of marriages, and this is advisable for spouses who want to avoid any complications with their marriage's legality in other foreign countries.
Tunisia has various beautiful wedding venues and locations, such as the Haifa Palace, Hotel Acropole Tunis, and Espace Podium, where both native Tunisians and foreign nationals are able to perform their marriages. Spouses must ensure that they have met all the marriage conditions with the correct certified documents before proceeding with marriage registration in the country. This article has touched on everything you need to know about marriage in Tunisia.
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