Modern North African nation states, also known as the Maghreb, were born between 1956 (Morocco and Tunisia) and 1962 (Algeria) following their political independence from France. Their postcolonial history is therefore marked by processes of identity formation and cultural decolonisation. However, although these countries share a colonial history, a common cultural heritage, and their adherence to Islam, they took diverse paths to realise and accomplish their independence. These diverse paths have fundamentally affected their positions towards women and women’s citizenship rights especially as they took divergent standpoints in the way they planned and implemented codes of personal statuses, known as ‘family codes’ that govern women’s destinies and their roles in the post-colonial era.
Therefore, it is the aim of this chapter to discuss the dynamics of North African women’s activism with a particular focus on the central role of the family codes adopted and modified by these states. In their dialectical relationships with the state, moderated by a complex of factors including patriarchy, religion and religious groups, forms of government, political leadership, and various others, women’s activism adopted various strategies and produced varying results over time.
Placing family codes as their principal feminist platform, this chapter aims to trace North African women’s activism to modify these family codes in order to secure their citizenship rights, and draw comparisons between their diverse trajectories.