Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October 2014, 16:06 GMT

Tunisia: Domestic violence, legislation and protection available to victims (2007-2009)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 24 November 2009
Citation / Document Symbol TUN103273.FE
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Tunisia: Domestic violence, legislation and protection available to victims (2007-2009), 24 November 2009, TUN103273.FE, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b20f04a3c.html [accessed 21 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The scope of domestic violence

Sources indicate that Tunisian women are subjected to domestic violence (Jeune Afrique 5 Dec. 2008; US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5).

According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008, published by the United States (US) Department of State, "[d]omestic violence was considered a serious problem" in Tunisia in 2008 (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). An article published by Jeune Afrique on 5 December 2008 notes that at least 20 percent of women have been victims of domestic violence in Tunisia. Information on the study that provided the data could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to La Presse, a daily newspaper in Tunis, domestic violence against women is one of the main causes of divorce in Tunisia (La Presse 20 Apr. 2009). Country Reports for 2008 cites the National Union of Tunisian Women (Union nationale de la femme Tunisianne, UNFT), an organization funded by the government of Tunisia, as saying that in 2008, "935 women consulted with UNFT during the year about domestic violence, including 515 new cases" (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5).

Legislation

Sources indicate that protection is available to Tunisian women in cases of domestic violence (EU 23 Apr. 2009, 5; OECD 2009; Tunisia 25 Feb. 2008). A report published by the European Commission notes that, in Tunisia, [translation] "the situation of women and the protection of their rights are still among the best in the Arab world" (EU 23 Apr. 2009, 5). In 2008, Tunisia signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (ibid.; AI 2009).

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), "[l]egislation in Tunisia provides a very high level of protection for the physical integrity of women," including "specific punishments for violence against women" (n.d.). The Tunisian penal code, amended in 2005, states the following in Article 218 regarding acts of violence:

[Translation]

Any individual who willfully injures, strikes or commits any other violent act or assault ... shall be punished by a term of imprisonment of one year and a fine of 1,000 dinars. [1 dinar = 0.81 Canadian dollars (XE.com 16 Nov. 2009)].

If the attacker is a relative or spouse of the victim, the punishment shall be a term of imprisonment of two years and a fine of 2,000 dinars.

If the act is carried out with premeditation, the punishment shall be increased to a term of imprisonment of three years and a fine of 3,000 dinars. (Tunisia 1 Oct. 1913)

Furthermore, Article 31 of the Personal Status Code (Code du statut personnel, CSP) gives female victims of domestic violence the right to file for divorce, the right to alimony, the right of abode, the right to custody of their children and the right to financial compensation for any emotional or material damages (Tunisia 25 Feb. 2008). However, according to the OECD, domestic violence is generally viewed as a "private" issue, so the police often refuse to intervene (2009).

In its response to questions posed by the United Nations (UN) Committee on Human Rights, the government of Tunisia declared that, under Articles 227 and 227 bis of the penal code, marital rape, like all other forms of rape, is a crime under Tunisian law (Tunisia 25 Feb. 2008; ibid. 1 Oct. 1913, Art. 227). Under Article 227 of the Tunisian penal code, sexual assault accompanied by acts of violence or threats with a weapon is punishable by death, while, for other cases of rape, the prescribed punishment is life imprisonment (Tunisia 1 Oct. 1913). Country Reports for 2008 indicates that "the government enforced the laws vigorously ... however, there were no reports of prosecution for spousal rape" in 2008 (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5)

Protection available to victims

Sources indicate that the Tunisian government has developed a national plan to combat domestic violence (EU 23 Apr. 2009, 5; UN n.d.f). The plan, entitled Integration of Gender and the Fight against Gender-based Violence (Intégration du genre et la lutte contre la violence fondée sur le genre), is the product of a cooperative effort among the Tunisian government and regional and international organizations such as the UN Population Fund (UNFPA); in addition to dealing with issues of equality and gender, the plan proposes activities designed to prevent violence and provide support for victims (UN n.d.f). Among other things, the plan provides for the following:

[Translation]

  • Implementing a national violence prevention strategy based on gender and its operationalization in sectors that provide support for female victims of violence at the national, regional and sectoral levels.

  • Developing appropriate services for better care of the physical, mental and psychological needs of female victims of violence.

  • Making available data needed to assess the phenomenon of violence against women and to develop appropriate and tailored interventions, and methodologies, instruments and reference systems to create and strengthen services that provide support for victims and ensure their right to health, security and protection.

  • Developing a system to collect and analyze data.

  • Organizing support for victims of violence.

  • Supporting cooperation among the various stakeholders through advocacy aimed at changing mentalities and practices and improving the enforcement of legislation (ibid.).

Awareness seminars, in which representatives from the media and various governmental and non-governmental organizations participated, were organized in 2008 (UN n.d.h). Also in 2008, a special national commission responsible for following up on the execution of the plan against gender-based violence was created (UN n.d.g). Additional information on the implementation of that plan could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

The OECD indicates that Tunisia has created a fund to provide financial support to women who leave their violent husbands while they await the court's decision to determine a fair compensation for the husband to pay (2009). Also, under an agreement reached between Tunisia's departments of Internal Affairs and Public Health, female victims of violence have access to free care in emergency cases (UN n.d.a). In addition, two shelters for women victims of violence, managed by the UNFT, are located in Tunis and in Sousse; they are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they can each accommodate about 20 people (UN n.d.b; UNFT n.d.). The UNFT states that women can stay for a maximum of 20 days at the centre in Tunis (n.d.). There is also a counselling and orientation centre for battered women in Tunis managed by the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (Association Tunisienne des femmes démocrates ATFD) (UN n.d.c), which is affiliated with the International Federation for Human Rights (Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme, FIDH) (FIDH 2 May 2007). Sources also report that the Tunisian government has implemented a free, permanent hotline for female victims of domestic violence (AI 2009; Jeune Afrique 5 Dec. 2008; UN n.d.d). This service is available 24 hours a day (ibid.). There are also paid telephone services, including one managed by the UNFT (UN n.d.e) and another by the ATFD (UN n.d.c).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Amnesty International (AI). 2009. "Tunisie." Amnesty International Rapport 2009. [Accessed 3 Nov. 2009]

European Union (EU). 23 April 2009. European Commission. Document de travail des services de la Commission accompagnant la communication de la Commission au Parlement européen et au conseil – Mise en oeuvre de la politique européenne de voisinage en 2008. Rapport de suivi Tunisie. [Accessed 8 Oct. 2009]

Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme (FIDH). 2 May 2007. "TUNISIE – Association tunisienne des femmes démocrates (ATFD)." [Accessed 5 Nov. 2009]

Jeune Afrique. 5 December 2008. Fabienne Pompey. "Violence au quotidien." [Accessed 8 Oct. 2009]

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 2009. Development Centre. "Gender Equality and Social Institutions in Tunisia." [Accessed 16 Oct. 2009]
_____. N.d. Development Centre. "The Social Institution Variables." [Accessed 12 Nov. 2009]

La Presse [Tunis]. 20 April 2009. S. Hamrouni. "Tunisie : pourquoi divorce-t-on? – La domestic violence sur la sellette." (AllAfrica.com) [Accessed 30 Sept. 2009]

Tunisia. 25 February 2008. Réponses du gouvernement tunisien à la liste des points à traiter (CCPR/C/TUN/Q/5) à l'occasion du cinquième rapport périodique de la Tunisie. (CCPR/C/TUN/Q/5ADD.1) [Accessed 27 Oct. 2009]
_____. 1 October 1913 (amended 17 June 2005). Code pénal. [Accessed 17 Nov. 2009]

Union nationale des femmes tunisiennes (UNFT). N.d. "Centre d'accueil et d'orientation de la femme en détresse." [Accessed 30 Sept. 2009]

United Nations (UN). N.d.a. The UN Secretary General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Accord établit entre le ministère de l'Intérieur et dle ministère de la Santé publique" [Accessed 30 Oct. 2009]
_____. N.d.b. The UN Secretary General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Hébergement gratuit en foyer des femmes victimes de violence – Union nationale de la femme Tunisienne." [Accessed 20 Oct. 2009]
_____. N.d.c. The UN Secretary General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Centre d'écoute et d'orientation des femmes victimes de violence et d'une ligne téléphonique payante – Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates." [Accessed 30 Oct. 2009]
_____. N.d.d. The UN Secretary General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Un service d'une ligne verte gratuite accessible 24 heures." [Accessed 20 Oct. 2009]
_____. N.d.e. The UN Secretary General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Services téléphoniques payants d'orientation juridique, sociale et psychologique pour les femmes victimes violence – Union nationale de la femme tunisienne (UNFT)." [Accessed 20 Oct. 2009]
_____. N.d.f. The UN Secretary General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Projet conjoint de coopération entre l'UNFPA, le ministère de Affaires, de la Femme, de la Famille, de l'Enfance et des Personnes âgées (MAFFEPA) et le Office national de la famille et de la population (ONFP) ayant pour intitulé 'intégration du genre et la lutte contre la violence fondée sur le genre'." [Accessed 20 Oct. 2009]
_____. N.d.h. The UN Secretary General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Séminaires et formations organisées par les différents secteurs en matière de violence à l'égard des femmes." [Accessed 20 Oct. 2009]
_____. N.d.g. The UN Secretary General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Commission nationale spéciale de coordination et de suivi de la mise en oeuvre de la stratégie nationale de lutte contre la violence fondée sur le genre." [Accessed 20 Oct. 2009]

United States (US). 25 February 2009. Department of State. "Tunisia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008. [Accessed 3 Nov. 2009]

XE.com. 16 November 2009. "Résultats du convertisseur universel de devises." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2009]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact the presidents of the Union nationale de la femme Tunisianne (UNFT) and the Association Tunisianne des femmes démocrates (ATFD) were unsuccessful.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Femmes méditerranéennes, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Genre en action, GlobalNet, Jurisite Tunisia, InfoSud Belgique (InfoSud), Magharebia, Le Monde diplomatique [Paris], Le Quotidien [Tunis], Radio France internationale (RFI) , Women Living Under Muslim Laws.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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