53 percent of all Tunisian women have suffered some form of street violence, the Minister of Women and Family Affairs told local radio ahead of a proposed bill to punish all acts of violence against women with a jail sentence.
Speaking on Mosaique Fm today, Minister Samira Marai said that, in addition to those who have experienced violence in public spaces a further 78% had also suffered verbal abuse of one kind or another.
Under the new law, all forms of violence against women, including sexual harassment in public places, will be punishable by a fine and one year in prison.
In addition to punishments for violence, the bill also stipulates a sentence of 6 years (Article 227) for anyone found guilty of having sexual relations, (excluding acts, or threats of violence) with anyone under the age of 16. This sentence is reduced to five years should anyone be found guilty of having sexual relations under the same circumstances with another aged between 16 and 18. Under the Criminal Code, sentences are increased if the perpetrator is found to be a member of the family.
Speaking to Tunisia Live, politician and lawyer, Bochra Belhai Hmida told of how the law on violence against women and sexual harassment had initially, “been proposed in 2007 by civil society groups, the previous government and the former Minister of Women and Family Affairs, Nayla Chaaben in an attempt to protect women from these kinds of abuse. However, due to various political instabilities, it has been postponed numerous times.”
Commenting further, Hmida spoke of how sexual harassment extends beyond simply verbal abuse but can include, “any act, gesture or words with sexual connotations can all constitute different forms of violence against woman.”
According to Hmida, around half of all Tunisian women are living with violence of one form or another and now is the time for them to reclaim their rights, be protected and reclaim their self confidence. However, doing so was unlikely to prove straightforward. ” This law will not completely change people behavior in the street or at home, because some people just don’t believe in gender equality.’ She added
Thew law on violence against women will be debated in the Assembly of People’s Representatives, (ARP) on August 13th, the National Day of Women.
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