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Marriage and Divorce in Tunisia, Cohabitation

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Marriage in Tunisia

Marriages in Tunisia are still first and foremost decisions of reason rather than of love.

Characteristics such as occupation, wealth, family origin of man and woman, youth, modesty and virginity weigh much heavier than a high degree of affection.

Such considerations took place in the past in western countries as well and still take place in many parts of the nobility - and it is only fair to say, that, in some regards, such marriages do have advantages over marriages that are purely emotion-based.

"Forced marriages" are forbidden by law in Tunisia, but a large portion of marriages are "arranged" marriages, in which the families strongly suggest the future partners to their children, and the most desired partners often being cousins.

And even though this form of marriage is declining in Tunisia and some children even strictly refuse them, the verdict of the family in Tunisia has a very high importance for the choice of spouses.

The main purpose of marriage is the production and raising of children (and the prevention of non-marital sexual intercourse), thus enlarging the family community and maintaining the modesty of the society. A marriage is , in Tunisia, also the only legal and socially accepted option for two people to be together with a non-related person of the opposite sex.

Spousal violence in Tunisia is not part of the law, but it takes place at least as often as in western countries. Beatings of women (and sometimes men) are therefore not uncommon, sexual harassment not rare at all.

Matrimonial disputes can take place loudly and out of open windows, though never in the streets, but will hardly be noticed by the neighbors anyway.

In Tunisia, the closure of a marriage contract (prenuptial agreement) before the wedding is mandatory.
Because most previously regulated things have, these days, become habit or law in Tunisia, the contracts are mostly limited to the amount of bridal money and the rulings of matrimonial properties.

It should be noted that various provisions in this contract can be taken, but will be void, if they violate national law (heritage, care, maintenance, etc.) and it will be very difficult to enforce them in a tunisian court.

For binational couples, pre-marital counseling by a  lawyer who is specialized in bi-national marriage contracts is highly recommended!

Religious-only marriages (Orfi/Urfi Misyaar and Mutah) are illegal in Tunisia!

Divorce in Tunisia

The divorce rate in Tunisia is recently , at least in the bigger cities, up to around 50%. Often, it is the woman, who files for a divorce (which is, in Tunisia, allowed by law for women as well). The main reasons of divorce in Tunisia are spousal violence, alcohol and drug abuse and adultery.

However, a divorce has massive drawbacks for the woman, which, in many cases, will prevent her from seeking a divorce.

There is, for example, after a divorce no alimony, if the woman is childless.

For children, however, even when the mother obtains the custody (which is common in Tunisia), the father keeps the right of determining the residence of the children.
As a divorced woman with children has almost no chance of a new marriage, the children are sometimes being "aborted" (they are either left with the father or are raised in the family of the father or mother) - or the mother will stay unmarried together with her children and her family (parents, uncles, etc.).

Cohabitation without marriage

The cohabitation of unmarried and non-related persons of different sex constitutes in Tunisia the offense of prostitution, and is, as well, socially ostracized.

This is not applicable when both partners are non-tunisian (eg. tourists) - there is usually no problem with this combination in Tunisia (although it is formally still against the law).

However, if one partner is tunisian and the other non-tunisian, problems will arise as well - one should rather not push its luck and keep low profile.


Homosexuality is both punishable and socially ostracized in Tunisia.

Marriages between persons of the same sex are not allowed in Tunisia and therefore, without an exception, not possible.

Cohabitation is, though, easily possible, since the non-sexual interaction / cohabitation of individuals of the same sex ("friendship") is not considered to be offensive, but rather a normal occurence.

So, as long as homosexuals refrain from any sexually understood actions in the public in Tunisia, they will not experience problems when living together.

However, the cohabitation of Westerners and Tunisians, is mostly suspected to be an homosexual partnership -  it will often be tolerated by state and society, but never accepted.

Starting in the year 2011, homosexuality is being increasingly condemned by religious and some political groups.

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