Ending discrimination against women in Tunisia: Work in progress
By Arroi Baraket, MRG Tunisia Communication Officer and Journalist
For over a decade, Tunisia has been immersed in a revolutionary process. Despite the progress made since the 2011 revolution, violence and discrimination against women persist and are growing stronger.
Aside from two laws which criminalize violence against women (Organic Law No. 2017-58) and condemn all forms of racial discrimination (Organic Law No. 2018-50), Tunisia lacks sufficient legislative framework to comprehensively criminalize various forms of discrimination. Legally, there is no definition of the multiple forms of discrimination from which women suffer the most, thus exposing them to the highest risks of invisibility, marginalisation and vulnerability.
Yet, defining the various forms of discrimination is fundamental to identifying, recognizing and eliminating each of them.
Discrimination is a violation of the fundamental right to equality and should be considered a criminal offence. It involves differentiated treatment of individuals or groups in comparable situations based on specific criteria, leading to privileges for some and disadvantages, inequalities, injustices and inequities for those discriminated against. Discrimination is based on one or more criteria, such as origin, skin colour, gender, family status, pregnancy, physical appearance, name, health condition, disability, genetic characteristics, customs, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political opinions, trade union activities, ethnic or national origin, race, or religion or place of residence.
Discrimination is intrinsically linked to violence. Countering violence against women is therefore a central element in the fight against all forms of discrimination.
Today marks the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, an annual campaign that aims to promote and end violence against women and girls worldwide. Each year it launches on 25 November, which marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until Human Rights Day on 10 December. This is fitting when you consider that violence against women constitutes the most widespread violation of human rights worldwide according to UN Women.
On this occasion, I present two interviews conducted during workshops organized in Tunisia as part of our efforts to combat various forms of discrimination.
The first comes from a training workshop for lawyers in Tunisia on the international legal framework for eliminating discrimination against women. Silvia Quattrini, MRG North Africa Associate, explains the importance of developing training for lawyers on this topic to enhance their ability to support victims of discrimination.
Silvia emphasizes the need to address all international conventions ratified by Tunisia in the context of human rights, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as well as the African regional convention —the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Drawing on the experience gained by MRG and our partner organizations in the context of the ‘All4All’ programme for the elimination of all forms of discrimination, Silvia highlights the importance of adopting an intersectional perspective on the issue, including discrimination against women who are black, living with a disability and who belong to a religious minority. This approach enables us to better understand the multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by these women, making us more effective in addressing their root causes.
In the second interview, we hear from Tunisian lawyer and feminist activist Hela Ben Salem. About a workshop for Tunisian lawyers on the national legal framework for eliminating violence against women, Hela points out its importance for lawyers from different regions in Tunisia to share expertise and experiences related to the application of the existing legal framework. She observes that five years after the adoption of the law on the elimination of violence against women, the legislation is applied inconsistently from one court to another, creating a gap between the law and the reality on the ground.
‘This discrepancy and the weak enforcement of the law are largely due to difficulties linked to raising awareness about the importance of this legislation,’ explains Hela.
She adds that the absence of a national strategy—or its inactivity—has exacerbated the phenomenon of femicides.
Hela concludes by pointing out that it is first and foremost the responsibility of the State to fully implement measures to support women victims of violence, especially since a joint protocol is in place for this support involving the Ministries of Interior, Justice, Women, Health and Social Affairs.
MRG continues its efforts with its partner organizations to end discrimination in Tunisia through legal action. We have joined forces with Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), a key organization in the field of access to justice, to provide enhanced legal action against all forms of discrimination, including but not limited to, gender identity-based discrimination. The programme also facilitates the continuous capacity building and mentoring of Tunisian lawyers, who play a crucial role in the country’s justice process and can provide accessible and high-quality legal assistance. Their role empowers decision-makers and society in the face of the legal standards to which Tunisia has committed. We are always available to provide legal services to persons facing discrimination.
Photo: Still from one of the two interviews. Credit: Minority Rights Group.