New law pushes Tunisia to protect women

News article, posted 08.15.2014, from Tunisia, in:
Ikhlas Latif
New law pushes Tunisia to protect women (Photo: Reuters)

Fighting violence against women is a major concern worldwide. Several countries have witnessed cases of violence against women, and Tunisia is no exception. Despite the existence of “forward-thinking” legislation in the Arab world, this fundamental violation of women's rights lingers.

With the resurgence of Islamist ideologies in Tunisian society, violence against women is increasing by the day. According to some of these ideologies, women are second-class citizens, a body or an object, according to their interpretations of religious precepts. According to these ideologies, women have to deal with the burden of traditions and a sexist mentality of male dominance.

On Aug. 13, 2014, the Constituent Assembly will consider the anti-women violence draft-law, as announced by the secretary of state in charge of family and women's affairs, Neila Chaabane. She said this law reflected the content of Article 46 of the constitution, which outlined that the state should take the necessary measures to eradicate violence against women. It's about time.

The Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD) began a campaign in early 2014 for the enactment of an anti-women violence law with the aim of encouraging the state to end the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators, and to define the public and private spaces where violence is practiced and adopt preventive measures.

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, defines “violence against women” as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

In Tunisia, several reports have pointed to the scale of such a phenomenon, as evidenced by the survey of the National Board for Family and Population (ONFP), published in 2012. According to the study, about one in two women said they had been subjected to violence during their life, 47.1 % in urban areas and 48.7% in rural areas. Educated women were less affected, but the rate remained high: 49.5% of victims among the illiterate, with 41.66% of victims with higher education. The study shows that the main perpetrators of such violence are spouses, who are responsible for 47.2% of the physical violence cases, 68.5% of the psychological violence cases, 78.2% of the sexual violence cases and 77.9% of the economic violence cases.

M.L., a young entrepreneur, told Business News: “I ​​do not dare talk about it because I know my family will say, ‘It's not so serious. It's not like he is beating you.’ I have a problem with my husband. He controls everything and suppresses me. Having my own business, I make a better living than my husband. At first, this was not a problem for him, but over time this has changed. Now he confiscates all my earnings. He tells me, ‘I'm the man and I am the one who should manage the household finances.’ He resorted to verbal and emotional abuse so that I give in and entrust him my bank accounts.”


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