A handful of shelters for battered women have opened in Tunisia as a result of the Eliminating Violence Against Women laws that passed in July of last year.
Tunisia is considered the most advanced Arab country when it pertains to women’s rights. It has seen revolutionary steps being made since the late 1950s. From changes in how community members perceive divorce to polygamy being abolished, improvements have been made regarding the rights of women in Tunisia and its surrounding regions.
Seven of the shelters in Tunisia are now funded by the European Union. At the shelters, women who have experienced domestic abuse are provided with necessities such as clothing and toiletries. They are also granted legal assistance and psychological support.
The shelters are primarily a method to combat the domestic violence in the country. Since the implementation of the law, there has been an uptick in women actively seeking help. The law also addresses criminal provisions, increases penalties for different forms of family violence, and criminalizes sexual harassment in public places. According to the Ministry of Women, Family and Children, 60 percent of Tunisian women have experienced domestic violence.
“The new law is innovative because before, when the woman was abused and forgave the abuser, he would not be punished by law,” said Amor Yahyaoui, a Ministry of Justice general inspector. “Now, even if the woman forgives him, he will face the law and he will be accountable.”
Perhaps the biggest issue the legislation has faced since its passage comes down to gaining significant funding. No provisions have been set by the Tunisian government to provide survivors with long-term financial assistance or accommodations.
“We need to educate children and their parents to respect family values, which include women’s rights,” said minister Néziha Labidi.
Despite the hiccups, the government’s implementation of laws to combat domestic violence is a step in the right direction for women’s rights. Women are being heard and acknowledged. Not only are the shelters a method to counteract domestic violence, but the law serves as a path to empowerment for these women. Under the protection that this law provides, they can begin to take control of their lives.
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