Imagine a world where female citizens are not treated as second-class citizens. You will probably think ‘is that not the case already?’, while quickly remembering headlines about equal pay and sexual harassment. However, even though most cultures in Western society have made great advances in the strive for equality between men and women, in other places – such as Tunisia for example – this is, in my opinion, definitely not the case.
The Republic of Tunisia is located in North-Africa, with a population of 11,93 million as of 2016 (National Institute of Statistics-Tunisia, 2016). In December 2010, a series of violent and non-violent demonstrations ensued in Tunisia, sparking what will later be referred to as the Arab Spring. A revolution in the Arab world against the rule of dictatorship and a fight for the protection of civil liberties such as Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Women’s Rights, Children’s Rights and LGBT+ rights. In the period between 1 July 1955 and December 2013, the Truth and Dignity Commission reported having received over 62.000 reports concerning a plethora of Human Rights violations. (Amnesty International, 2017).
Despite the progress made thus far, with respect to the stability of the nation and preservation of Human Rights, I believe that women in Tunisia are still subjected to discrimination in law and practice and remain inadequately protected against sexual and gender-based violence. The fact that Tunisian women are subjected said discrimination, in law and practice, is a direct violation of article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This article constitutes the prohibition of discrimination on any ground, including sex (Council of Europe, 1950). This cannot go on any longer, this is why I think the Tunisian government should put special effort into protecting their female citizens and preserving their rights, enact national law to prohibit and punish discrimination and domestic violence and create a structure to protect victims of violence or provide shelter.
First of all, the fact that marital rape was legal until recently, shows in my opinion, the lacking progress of women equality and woman rights. Another example of this would be that men could escape prosecution of crimes, such as rape and kidnapping, via a marriage with the victim. Not only is this in my opinion disgusting, but it is also a testament to the lack of attention given to the wellbeing of female citizens and their rights.
second, the female population is also subjected to immense amounts of violence. Of the 11,93 million citizens – 5.683.853 females – 47% of which have been a victim of domestic violence (Human Rights Watch, 2017). This means that 2.671.410 females have been a victim of domestic violence as of writing this. To add salt to the wounds, the country also lacks the structure for protective organizations or shelters for victims of domestic violence. However, parliament approved a bill which criminalizes racial and other forms of discrimination and a bill on eliminating violence against women on the 26 July 2017 (Roberts, 2017), but this bill is still to be implemented.
Third, the discrimination and violence is a direct breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Fourth, the fact that Tunisia has always been seen as a modern and progressive country, means that they are the perfect country to usher the Arab world into a more female-friendly future.
I, therefore, believe that Tunisia should make a decision. A decision to protect millions of their own citizens from vile forms. Not only on paper but also in practice. A decision to set an example and lead the Arab world into a future where men and women are treat like equals. Abolishing discrimination and violence settles the fate of the millions now in danger or victimhood and unborn millions to come.
Amnesty International. (2017). The Amnesty International Report 2016/2017. Retrieved 1 17, 2018, from Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/tunisia/report-tunisia/
Council of Europe. (1950, November 4). European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. European Convention on Human RIghts. Rome, Italy: European Court of Human RIghts.
Human Rights Watch. (2017). Human Rights Report Tunisia 2016/2017. Human Rights Watch . Human Rights Watch .
National Institute of Statistics-Tunisia. (2016, July 1). Population. Retrieved 1 11, 2018, from Institute national de la statistique: http://www.ins.tn/en/front
Roberts, R. (2017, July 28). Tunisia: ‘Landmark’ new law gives women protection from rape and domestic violence. Independent. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/tunisia-law-women-protect-rape-domestic-violence-north-africa-landmark-rights-abuse-sexual-a7864846.html