Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gap between rulemaking, enforcement: Tunisia’s gender violence law struggles to get beyond paper



Gap between rulemaking, enforcement: Tunisia’s gender violence law struggles to get beyond paper

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Tunisian women demonstrate on Saturday in Tunis against violence against women. AFP

Gap between rulemaking, enforcement: Tunisia’s gender violence law struggles to get beyond paper

When Nadia told police about her husband’s violence during a coronavirus lockdown in Tunisia, she nearly lost custody of her daughter, illustrating a chasm between a gender law and its enforcement.

Adopted in 2017, the celebrated law greatly expanded the scope of punishable violence against women and in theory provides wide-ranging support to victims, making the country a pathfinder among regional peers.

But getting justice remains a battle without any guarantee of success, due to waning political will and scant funding.

For several years, Nadia, in her forties, weathered threats and mistreatment at the hands of her husband.

With no income of her own, she did not feel she could complain.

“He would do it when drunk, then apologise,” Nadia said.

“He left for several months every year to work abroad, so I preferred to do nothing” about the abuse, she added.

But things became intolerable during a three-month lockdown to forestall the spread of the coronavirus a year ago.

“He was stuck in the house, stressed. He drank a lot,” Nadia said.

“One day my daughter told me of inappropriate advances” of a sexual nature.

Nadia immediately called the police, who summoned her a few days later.

She was one among many Tunisian women who suffered a surge in violence during the March-to-June lockdown, as reported cases spiked five-fold, according to authorities.

And cases remain high.

‘Nearly lost everything’

But Nadia says she was completely blindsided by what happened next.

While her initial interaction with the police was positive, things quickly turned sour.

Her husband was able to afford a lawyer, while she is destitute and fears he may have bribed the police or magistrates.

The police requested she put together an evidence file herself.

After several weeks without any progress and by now desperate and terrified of losing custody of her daughter, Nadia turned to a women’s group for help.

The Association of Women Democrats (ATFD), which provides everything from shelter to legal help, linked her up with a lawyer who found that the police station had not even sent her evidence to court.

The file was then sent to a second magistrate and a few days later her husband was finally arrested.

“Fortunately I found some support,” Nadia said.

But by that stage, “I had nearly lost everything, even my daughter.”

The 2017 legislation, known as Law 58, was drafted in consultation with women’s activists and associations.

In theory, it covers prevention, suppression and protection against violence, along with compensation.

To improve the care of women seeking police protection, the interior ministry has established 130 specialist brigades since 2018.

Specific education on such violence is now provided in police schools, while officers who attempt to discourage women from lodging cases face prison terms.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants

  • Time to Rise by rapper, chapei legend is viral hit with ancient-modern mix

    Kong Nay is known internationally as the master of the chapei dang veng, a traditional Cambodian instrument resembling a long-necked lute or guitar with two nylon strings that he was already playing professionally by the age of 15. Nay is sometimes referred to as the Cambodian