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Girls & Women

Tunisia Just Passed a Law to Protect Women Against Violence

A new law passed in Tunisia on Wednesday making all forms of violence against women illegal is being hailed as “landmark” and “historic.”

The law follows decades of protest for women’s rights in the North African country.

The “Law on Eliminating Violence Against Women” is the first of its kind in Tunisia. The country had no prior legislation on the topic of violence against women, according to Human Rights Watch, a global research and advocacy organization for human rights.

Collectively, Human Rights Watch and other groups that advocate for women’s rights in Tunisia have campaigned for laws that protect women from violence for decades.

The passage of this new law is a big step forward both for gender equality and protects the 47% of women who face violence in Tunisia, according to Human Rights Watch.

“Tunisia’s new law provides women with the measures necessary to seek protection from acts of violence by their husbands, relatives, and others,” Amna Guellali, Tunisia office director at Human Rights Watch said.

The law criminalizes sexual harassment, domestic violence, and any physical, moral, sexual, or economic aggression toward women that has a damaging effect or causes suffering to women.

It also requires the government to provide domestic violence survivors with legal, medical, and mental health support, Deutsche Welle reports.

“All of this represents a revolution in the legal system and also a revolution in the mentality because usually the violence against women that takes place inside the house is considered something private and something for the family to deal with,” Guellali said.

According to the new law, women can file a restraining order against an abusive husband without needing to file for divorce, according to Human Rights Watch. This is one of the most effective legal methods of preventing violence, according to UN Women.

However, the legislation has one more critical hurdle to pass: it needs funding to support legal actions taken by women going forward.

“The government should now fund and support institutions to translate this law into genuine protection,” Guellali said.

Still, Guellali said that she hopes other countries, like Morocco and Algeria, who are close to installing laws to protect women, will see Tunisia’s new law as a sign it’s time to move forward too.

The law is expected to come into effect at the start of next year, France24 reports.