Discrimination and violence against women in Tunisia

03/06/2002
Report

Executive Summary and recommendations

1. Violence against women

In Tunisia lifting the veil on domestic or sexual violence remains a major issue. Yet,
little by little, with very little means and a lot of energy, the Centre for the Listening of
Women victims of Violence has progressively developed its activities. Between 1990
and June 2000, the Centre has filed 789 cases of violence against women. The vast
majority of them are cases of domestic violence. In second position, comes cases of
sexual harassment or violence at work. Other cases include rape, incest, family
violence (detention of young women), violence in the street.
Beyond this, the Centre has encountered or witnessed a great number of difficulties in
bringing the cases to the Court, and obtaining legal remedy for the victims.
If legal remedies are available in principle, they often meet the resistance of the judge
to be pratically pursued. Pressure, in some cases, has been exerted on the judge, for
him not to take up the case, not to mention sometimes critical attitudes towards
women within the Court. In some cases, non-application of a law or discriminatory
application of the law is also reported.
Cases of rape are inadequately investigated into, without the use of objective means of
evidence, such as through genetical proof (while this modern tool is used for the
recognition of fatherhood).
In alleged cases of incest, the father remains free till the pronouncing of a judgment,
without precautionary measures being decided upon, such as the physical separation
from the child.
Sexual violence is insufficiently covered by the law, preventing from adequate redress,
but more importantly, from raising social awareness on its different forms. For
exemple, sexual harassment is not recognized by the law, and therefore remains very
badly documented or prevented. Rape within a married couple neither is criminalized.

Following this, the FIDH, the ATFD and the LTDH invite the Committee to recommend the TunisianGovernment to tke the following measures:

On the prevention of violence

- generalise education on sexual violence and promote violent-free
environments, within and outside schools.
- Develop information and sensitisation of the public on the various forms of
sexual violence, especially domestic violence
- Pursue independent researches on the psychological and sociological causes of
sexual violence
- Develop the training of professionals in contact with situations of violence
against women, especially the magistrates and the police, to develop specific
methods of work accordingly.

On the treatment of violence

- Adopt a law of general framework on sexual violence, based on the UN
declaration, which would recognize domestic rape, define and criminalize
sexual harassment, and introduce efficient inquisitorial procedures to
investigate into alleged cases of sexual violence
- Submit sexual offenders to therapeutical detention, as a means to canalize
violence and prevent the repetition of abuses;
- Enable and facilitate rapid response to emergency situations, including
through the development of help centres and homes for women who have to
flee from their own home;
- Create a specific fund for victims of sexual violence, dedicated to support
direct victims and the organizations which provide them with assistance.

2. Repression of women activists

Women taking part in Human rights or Women’s rights activities and independent
organisations are systematically targeted by the Tunisian authorities.

These attacks take various forms:

- Physical aggression
- Destruction of property, threats against families and children;
- Intimidation, following the woman in the street
- Judicial harassment of the organisations they work in (e.g. the Tunisian League for
Human Rights, the CNLT)
- Defamation campaigns
- Cutting of communication means (telephone lines, internet sites, etc)
- Violation of secrecy, spying telephone conversations, etc
These aggressions target women because of their participation in a Generalist
Independent Human Rights organisation, or in a Women’s rights organisation. They
also target female lawyers or journalists in their activities.
These acts prevent women from freely participating in public life, or in exercising an
independent profession. They are a supplementary breach of the Convention when
they target women’s rights activists. Finally, if some constitute acts of violence against
women, they remain unpunished.

The three organizations therefore invite the Committee to call upon the Tunisian
authorities to

- recognize and apply in practice the UN Declaration on Human Rights
Defenders; enable the practical realization of the freedom of association, of
the freedom of women to participate in public life; allow the independent
women’s rights and Human rights activists to pursue their activities with the
necessary means to do so.
- Stop all arbitrary trials against genuine and independent Human rights
organizations
- Ensure the trial of the authors of physical, material and phsychological
violence against women’s rights and female Human rights activists

3. gender discrimination in inheritance law

The law on inheritance, as included in the “Code du Statut personnel”, contains two
forms of legal discrimination against women:
- The circle of persons entitled to a share of the ingeroitance is larger for men than
women;
- Men have priority over women in the distribution of inheritance (a wife will only
inherit 1/8th or 1/4th of her husband’s inheritance ; a son will receive twice as much
as his own sister).
Such inequality is qualified by the Committee as a form of discrimination (General
Recommendation 21), and was already mentioned to the Tunisian Government on the
occasion of the review of its initial report in 1995.
The organisations invite the Committee to call on the Tunisian Governement to
take all necessary legal measures to modify the Chapter of the “Code du Statut
Personnel” relating to inheritance, in ordwer to inscribe the strict gender
equality in the field of inheritance.

4. Legal limitation of women’s freedom of religion

A non-muslim wife is discriminated upon, within the private sphere, when married to a muslim husband, she is not entitled to inherit from her husband, nor will her children inherit from her.

The Inheritance legislation (contained in the Code du Statut Personnel bears therefore
an attempt to women’s freedom of religion.
The three organisations therefore invite the Committee to urge the Tunisian authorities to reaffirm the supremacy of the freedom of religion of all women
over inheritance law.

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