(Photo: World Watch Monitor)
A group of women in Tunisia. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Women in Tunisia can now marry whomever they wish, even if their spouse is a non-Muslim, reports the BBC.

The announcement today was made by the spokeswoman for President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Previously, only men in the 99 per cent Muslim nation had the freedom to marry a non-Muslim, while, according to the BBC, “a non-Muslim who wished to marry a Tunisian woman had to convert to Islam and submit a certificate of his conversion as proof”.

In Tunisia’s constitution there is no place for Sharia (Islamic law), but it does say that Islam is the “religion of the State”.

According to the BBC’s Rana Jawad, the decision “sets apart Tunisia as the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to remove the legal hurdles to marrying outside the official state religion”, although she says it still fails to “do away with the cultural and traditional obstacles women face with their families in cases of inter-faith marriage”.

With a population of 11.5 million, Tunisia has an estimated 23,500 Christians, consisting of a large group of expatriates and a small group of native-born citizens of European and Arab descent.

They are divided into four main groups: Catholics, the Reformed Church, the Anglican Church and the Orthodox Church.

The country ranks 29th on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.