Institutional Changes and the Gender Regime in Tunisia: Is a Transition Patriarchal to Modern Gender Relations Underway?

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Valentine MOGHADAM, Northeastern University, USA
Theorization of gender at the meso-institutional and macro-systemic levels has thus far focused on advanced capitalist societies of Western Europe and North America (Walby 2004; 2009), Connell 1987); Pascall and Lewis 2004; but see Bose 2015). The proposed paper builds on that research but seeks to extend it through application to a non-Western case study, Tunisia.

The paper would elucidate (a) changes in key institutional domains in Tunisia – women's involvement in the professions, sustained feminist activism, family law reform, VAW legislation, and the increase in women's political representation, especially since the 2011 democratization process – which may represent a shift from the longstanding patriarchal to a "modern" (rights-based) gender regime; (b) the ongoing challenges to the transformation of the gender regime emanating from Tunisia's peripheral status within the capitalist world-system and exacerbated by the 2008 Great Recession and post-Arab Spring regional conflicts: high unemployment, growing income inequality, low investment and growth, and political instability; and (c) the specific challenges within Tunisia's labour market – notably, shortage of decent work and absence of enforcement of work-family reconciliation policies – that preclude wider female labour force participation and that contribute to gender, regional, and income inequalities. Sources of data and information include government documents and data, publications of feminist organization and women’s policy agencies, the author’s fieldwork in Tunisia since 1990, and the relevant secondary sources.

The paper will contribute to historical comparative analyses of varieties of gender regimes while also confirming the salience of economic and financial factors and forces in the (un)sustainability of gender transformations. Finally, the paper will propose a research agenda to extend gender regimes varieties beyond the contemporary and Western-based categories of “social democratic” and “neoliberal”, and to encompass “democratic socialist”, “dependent capitalist”, and “state capitalist” gender regimes.