Shortcomings of Tunisia’s law on violence against women

Statement, Tunisia, Women's Rights and Gender Equality

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On 11 August 2017, Tunisia passed the comprehensive law on violence against women (“Loi intégrale”), a major step forward in the fight against VAW and the result of decades of advocacy efforts by Tunisian civil society.

This legislation integrates all forms of violence against women, whether physical, sexual, moral, economic or even political, in cases involving discrimination between men and women. It contains four parts:

  • Prevention: training and awareness of all contributors and education in gender equality and non-violence
  • Protection & Support: these aspects incorporate protection orders to hold off an aggressor from the domicile of the victim or the access to different services (medical or judicial assistance, psychological support)
  • Prosecution: for new forms of incrimination, such as the moral harassment within a couple, moral harassment, discrimination in salary and grade or incest; the legislation also eliminates the possibility for perpetrators to avoid conviction by marrying their victims.

Nevertheless, this new legislation is far from ideal, as it presents severe shortcomings: it criminalises sexual intercourses between minors aged from 16 to 18 and lacks of a specific provision concerning marital rape.

The main problems, however, occur at the implementation level. Four months have passed since the adoption of the law, but still no implementing legislation has been enacted. The protection system (including hotlines, shelters, psychological support etc.) provided for in the law is not in place yet, the budget has not been defined, and no timeline has been provided for its implementation. In addition, no specific commitments have been made regarding the budget, with the consequence that the activities of assistance and support can only be funded through already available resources. Yet civil society organizations do not have access to any long-term or sustainable funding from the state to provide this assistance.

As is the case of the protection system, the monitoring structure has not yet been put in place. Although Article 39 of the loi intégrale provides for a National Observatory to prevent violence against women to be set up, to date this has not happened and no timeline has been provided for it either. Furthermore, no initiative has been taken to include independent civil society in the future observatory, which is currently dependent on the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs. Therefore, in the absence of a truly independent mechanism, which should include representatives of civil society, no proper monitoring of the implementation of the law can be carried out.

The flaws and the insufficient implementation of the loi intégrale prove the importance for Tunisia to  accede to the Istanbul Convention, which would give access to the GREVIO monitoring mechanism. It would also require Tunisia to harmonize its legislation with the provisions of the Convention, thus remedying the shortcomings of the loi intégrale.