Situation of a woman who has a child out of wedlock; the attitude of the mother’s family and of Tunisian society toward the mother and her child [TUN101782.FE]


An article published in the Tunisian newspaper Le Temps indicates that there is an increasing number of single mothers in Tunisia, where the issue goes largely unnoticed (3 Apr. 2006). In the same article, the head of gynecology and obstetrics at the Maternity and Neonatal Centre of Tunis (Centre de maternité et de néonatologie de Tunis, CMNRT) indicates that single mothers are often [translation] “rejected by their families and by [Tunisian] society,” which still lives under the influence of [translation] “Arab-Muslim civilization” (Le Temps 3 Apr. 2006). However, in 1 September 2006 correspondence, the President of the Alliance of Women with Careers in Law (Alliance des femmes de carrières juridiques, AFCJ), a Tunisian professional association that defends women’s rights, indicated that Tunisian society rarely rejects single mothers any more. She stated that most residents of large cities recognize single mothers, while in rural areas single mothers often [translation] “receive little support, are rejected and are sometimes turned out of their homes because of social foundations that do not accept relations outside of marriage” (AFCJ 1 Sept. 2006). The President of the AFCJ also stated that single mothers from rural areas who are afraid of being banished by their families can find refuge in shelters, whose mission is to help them (1 Sept. 2006). These shelters house single mothers and their children [translation] “for a set period of a few months, the time to enable them . . . to find a home and employment or to place the child in the care of a centre for children born out of wedlock” (AFCJ 1 Sept. 2006). No additional information on shelters for single mothers could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

According to the President of the AFCJ, Tunisian mothers, regardless of whether they are married or single, all have the same rights and responsibilities toward their children (1 Sept. 2006). In an article published in the Tunisian newspaper Le Temps, the head of gynecology and obstetrics at the CMNRT indicatesd that Tunisian society still has a negative attitude toward children born out of wedlock (3 Apr. 2006). However, the article also states that Islam [translation] “encourages society to care for these children, particularly children with no family support” (Le Temps 3 Apr. 2006). Moreover, the President of the AFCJ stated in correspondence that, in Tunisia, children of single mothers are considered to be [translation] “natural children” and their rights are protected (1 Sept. 2006).

The right of all Tunisian children to an identity, regardless of whether their mother is married or single, is guaranteed under Article 26 of Law No. 57–3 of 1 August 1957 (4 Moharem 1377) Regulating Civil Status (Tunisia 7 July 2003). Moreover, Article 1 of Law No. 2003–51, which amends Law No. 9875 on naming children who are abandoned or whose parentage is unknown, stipulates that a child born of a single mother and whose father is unknown shall bear the mother’s surname (ibid.). However, a man who is recognized as the father of a child born out of wedlock must give his surname to the child and pay to support him or her (ibid., Art. 3bis). Moreover, the Tunisian nationality of a child born of a single mother is guaranteed under Article 6 of the first chapter of the Tunisian Nationality Code (Tunisia 30 Nov. 1984).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Alliance des femmes de carrières juridiques. 1 September 2006. Correspondence from the president.

Le Temps [Tunis]. 3 April 2006. “Séduites et abandonnées… Et les enfants?” [Accessed 30 Aug. 2006]

Tunisia. 7 July 2003. Loi N° 2003-51. [Accessed 6 Sept. 2006]

_____. 30 November 1984. Code de la nationalité tunisienne. (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR). [Accessed 6 Sept. 2006]

_____. 1 August 1957. Loi N° 57-3 du 1er Aug. 1957 (4 Moharem 1377) réglementant l'État civil. (Jurisite Tunisie Website). [Accessed 7 Sept. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: UNICEF Tunisia and the Women’s Association of Tunisia 21 did not respond to a request for information within the time constraints for this Response.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), La Presse de Tunisie,, Union nationale de la femme tunisienne (UNFT), Women Living Under Muslim Laws. PAGE

Associated documents