A victory for women’s rights? Tunisia’s inheritance laws and the ‘human rights’ discourse

Diversity and difference, both within and between societies, continually give rise to a series of important and potentially divisive questions, as societies embodying different civilizational outlooks and values and divergent epistemologies are increasingly voicing differences on issues ranging from political representation and social autonomy to gender and sexuality. Finding morally defensible and politically viable answers to these questions is arguably one of the great challenges of our time.

Diversity and difference, both within and between societies, continually give rise to a series of important and potentially divisive questions, as societies embodying different civilizational outlooks and values and divergent epistemologies are increasingly voicing differences on issues ranging from political representation and social autonomy to gender and sexuality. Finding morally defensible and politically viable answers to these questions is arguably one of the great challenges of our time.

One particularly divisive framework in which many of these issues have been addressed is “human rights,” as they have come to be conceived and codified in international human rights charters and proclamations. Premised on an absolute equality between human beings “without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions,” the human rights scheme arguably fails to convincingly indicate how such an imagined equality should be promoted and maintained in the face of difference. The question that needs to be continually asked is who determines what constitutes equality? In this context, any system that is viewed to violate the principle of equality is deemed to be problematic.

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