As the CEDAW Committee prepares to examine the situation for women’s rights in Tunisia, feminists fear the Convention’s demise. In 2011, Tunisia withdrew its reserves regarding the CEDAW. A political decision that was not followed by legislative reform.
Their names are Baya Zardi, Hanène Elleuch, Najla Ettounssia, Rania Toumi… What they share in common: a certain representation of beauty and knack for creating a buzz. And indeed, they devote themselves body and soul to this end—even when it sets them against other women.
The new electoral law unilaterally decreed by president Kais Saied spurred outcry among women’s rights advocates in Tunisia. In protest of the new legislation, a feminist movement formed of nine associations staged a sit-in before the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE). As these activists voice demands for absolute parity between men and women in the public sphere, the president’s backwards approach to equality threatens to reverse women’s political gains.
President Kais Saied marked National Women’s Day in Tunisia on August 13 by sending his wife to make a celebratory speech in which she sang her husband’s praises. That didn’t sit well with many Tunisians who reminded her that ‘first lady’ is not a recognized function in the country.
3.2% of Tunisia’s incarcerated population are women. Asma is one of them. In an interview with Nawaat, Asma opens up about the appalling conditions inside women’s prisons. For many inmates, violence, whether socio-economic or psychological, is a fact of their past and present. A study by Beity and Lawyers Without Borders sheds light on their experience in prison and beyond.
A notable achievement since Tunisia’s adoption of law-58 on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 2017 is that it has broken the taboo on speaking about domestic violence. Yet, while spousal violence has received significant attention, it can be seen as representing the trees hiding the forest: family violence, and its multifaceted implications for women in their adulthood, remains a kind of family secret. It is time to shed light on this dimension of violence against women.
I was on my treadmill exercising and watching Nicki Minaj “killing it” in one of her concerts when I saw a notification on my Facebook stating that Tunisian President Kais Saied had just nominated Ms. Najla Bouden as the new Head of Government. This would make her the first to hold such a high position in Tunisia as well as the first in the Arab world. I was excited for only a few seconds. As a Tunisian woman and a feminist who founded the association “Aswat Nisaa” to enhance women’s political participation and advocate for gender sensitive public policies, this should have been a celebratory moment! But it wasn’t for me. Why—I asked myself—am I being a joy-killer here? Am I being a “bad feminist ”?
Harassment, revenge porn, blackmail: 80 percent of women in Tunisia have experienced violence on the internet. This violence is multifaceted and rampant on social media. In an effort to stop it, some have decided to publicly denounce their aggressors on Facebook through the Ena Zeda groups. But is this enough to stem the violence?
I do not engage men in conversations on gender equality, especially cis, straight men. The last time I did, I was called a ‘feminazi’ for shaming a man who unabashedly invalidated a woman’s feelings toward her own menstruation. I did not understand how a man could draw such far-fetched conclusions without even having a vagina, let alone bleeding from it. Moreover, what would entitle him to invalidate her experiences and opinions?
A hostage to its « sacro-patriarchal » paradigm, Tunisia’s Code of Personal Status has become a glass ceiling—blocking women’s access to full and complete citizenship and preventing them from enjoying all of their human rights—in a society where the demand for equality between men and women presents a permanent threat to a public order that is gendered.
“There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or preferably unheard”, Arundhati Roy
The 2019 presidential campaign began on Monday, September 2, 2019. Between those who have it, those who want to have it, and those who are preventedfrom having it, the fight over power has just started. Like every election, candidates are playing the « Tunisian woman » card and pitting us, Tunisian women, against each other, instrumentalizing the question of equality. Pretending to be the liberators or protectors of the “Tunisian woman” isa tradition which stems from a long history of State-feminism that was key throughout many phases of Tunisian history. Now, however, such discourse is void. We thought that Tunisian women killed the father in 2011 and should not seek to replace him with a new one, and that no candidate should pretend to father us. The time for nostalgia is over.
This article is co-authored by Samah Krichah and Ikram Ben Said.
This is a portrait of the Tunisian hip hop movement DEBO through the eyes of two of its leading members: Souhayla Mansour, a cultural entrepreneur who seeks artistic solutions to social issues, and Synda Jebali, a passionate dancer who challenges herself to experiment with new forms of expression. Both dream and resist.
« Not for fame, not for nikah, not for fun », once tweeted a female ISIS member called Shams . Women have long been valued fighters in liberation movements and other politically motivated armed guerilla warfares, but recently a new troubling form of women’s political militantism has emerged and raises a serious question: Why would women eagerly join a violent terrorist movement that is strongly patriarchal, misogynistic and moreover profoundly disregards their dignity as human beings? Understanding why women have joined ISIS is essential if we want to create effective prevention and reintegration programs.
On October 14, journalists and women’s association members put their heads and pens together to draft a Declaration of Principles on Media Coverage and Journalistic Practices concerning Violence against Women. The same day, Alaa Chebbi is denounced by activists for “violating press laws” and “normalizing violence against women and little girls […] just to make a buzz.”
For more than a decade, the Amal Association for families and children has been helping single mothers. In a society where sexual relations outside marriage are forbidden and where pregnancy is a drama, Amal provides support for these women and helps them to lay a foundation for life. To do so, Amal hosts single mothers in a home for about four months, enough to help them get back on their feet.