ALGIERS - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika vowed Monday to free women from the yoke of the repressive Islamic "family code" that considers them perpetually dependent on men.
Bouteflika, taking the oath of office for his second and final term after winning re-election in a landslide on April 8, said he rejected that women "should be subjected to a status that assails their rights and condemns them to a condition inferior to men's."
The president did not specify the changes that he has in mind for what women's groups have dubbed the "code of shame," voted into law in 1984 by the then sole ruling party, the National Liberation Front (FLN).
The controversial code considers women to be minors throughout their lives and requires them to remain under the tutelage of a family member or husband.
It also allows polygamy and makes divorce easy for men but nearly impossible for women, while inheritance laws award twice as much to male heirs as to female offspring.
Bouteflika said: "Taboos remain to be overturned, especially in certain mentalities that do not manage to open up to modernity," in a reference to radical Islamists who are opposed to amending the family code as called for feminist and secularist groups.
The president said he wished to "assure" women of his intent to modify the code.
He urged women to "bring their enlightened and enthusiastic contribution to the struggle for their rights ... for a freer and more human society and to introduce principles of tolerance and fraternity into our mores."
Neighbouring Morocco overhauled its family code in February, while Tunisia liberalized such legislation in 1956.