Tunisia law on violence against women ‘landmark step’: HRW

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Human Rights Watch on Thursday hailed a new law to fight domestic violence in Tunisia as a “landmark step” towards protecting women’s rights but called for funding to fully implement it.

The law, passed Wednesday and expected to enter into force next year, provides for help to victims of domestic violence and removes a controversial article that allows rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victim.

The law also criminalizes sexual harassment in public places and the employment of children as domestic workers, as well as fines employers paying women less than their male counterparts, HRW said in a statement.

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

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

The New York-based group said that “while the law requires authorities to refer women to shelters if they are in need, it provides no mechanisms for funding either governmental or nongovernmental shelters”.

The law recognises “physical, moral and sexual” violence, lawmaker Bochra Belhaj Hmida told AFP after Wednesday’s vote.

Tunisia is seen as a pioneer of women’s rights in the Arab world but rights groups say women are still discriminated against, and around half say they have been subject to at least one form of violence in their lives.

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