Tunisia: the global law on the elimination of violence against women: a historic step towards the respect of human rights

The bill on combatting violence against women in Tunisia, which was in the process of genesis since 2013, was adopted by the Assembly of People’s Representatives on 26 July 2017 and entered into force in February 2018.

This ambitious, long-anticipated law has the merit of securing the remaining guarantees of full gender equality before the law, as defined in the new Tunisian constitution of 2014. It marks a decisive step taken following a lively debate within the Tunisian society.

By enacting this law, Tunisia demonstrated its will to move towards progressive standards on women’s rights.

The adopted legislation reinforces the protection of women victims of violence, extends the definition of violence against women to encompass moral, sexual as well as economic exploitation and amends the legal provisions which have become unconstitutional. It also amends article 227 bis of the Penal Code by removing the provision that allowed the perpetrator of a “non-violent” sexual act with a minor under the age of 15 to avoid punishment if he marries his victim.

Furthermore, the law criminalizes sexual harassment in public places, child domestic work and puts in place penalties for the employers that intentionally discriminate against women in salaries.

This new law goes even further by putting in place specific educational programs on the principles of human rights and gender equality in schools.

Tunisia is a pioneering country in the field of women’s rights. This law constitutes a new achievement of the modern State as an extension to the Code of Personal Status (1956) and to the article 46 of the Constitution which stipulates that “The State shall take all necessary measures in order to eradicate violence against women”. Inscribing this objective in the Constitution is a big step forward for Tunisian women.