How Tunisia is Taking Big Steps Towards Ending Sexual Violence

VAWTunisia

By: Jihane Bergaoui, Amnesty International USA, Country Specialist for Morocco and the Western Sahara

This past week I traveled to Tunisia to watch my colleagues from Amnesty Tunisia hand deliver over 198,000 signed petitions from Amnesty International members worldwide, calling on the Tunisian authorities to end discrimination against women and girl survivors of sexual violence. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

TAKE ACTION: No One Should Have to Marry Their Rapist

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By Tarah Demant, Women’s Human Rights Thematic Specialist 

Each of us has autonomy over our own body: we all have the right to make our own decisions about our healthcare, reproduction, and sexual lives, and we should be able to do so without living in fear of violence or discrimination. No matter where you live, no matter who you are, it’s your body and your rights.

Yet far too many are deprived of the basic human rights over their own bodies, including the right to be free from violence, sexual, assault, and rape. Such violence against women is part of a global culture of discrimination, but in the Maghreb region of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, discriminatory legal provisions help enable rampant sexual violence against women and girls.

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Closing Morocco’s Rape Loophole is Just the First Step

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

By Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program. This post originally appeared in the International Business Times

Amina Filali was just 16 years old when, in the depths of despair, she decided to take her own life.

Several months earlier the teenager from Morocco had been forced to marry a man whom she said had raped her.

In March 2012, Amina lost all hope. She swallowed rat poison in her hometown of Larache and died shortly afterwards.

Up until last week, men accused of rape in Morocco were able to escape prosecution by marrying their victim, if the girl was aged under 18.

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THIS EXISTS: Law Allows Rapists to Escape Prison If They Marry Underage Victims

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

Amina Filali committed suicide by swallowing rat poison in March 2012. She was 16 years old. Her desperate act showed the depth of her pain and despair: she must have felt that nobody was there to help her.

We soon learned that Amina had been raped in her small Moroccan town, by a man she was then forced to marry. Imagine being married to your rapist, to be forced to see that person all the time – it would be devastating.

He married her because Moroccan law allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victim, if she is aged under 18.

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The Year of Rebellion

egypt demonstration protest

Demonstrators' resilience in 2011 has changed the regional context for human rights © AP Photo / Tarek Fawzy

This week, we  approach the first major anniversary of the popular uprisings that began to sweep through the Middle East and North Africa last year. On January 14, 2011, Tunisia’s long time president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country to Saudi Arabia. Since December Ben Ali has been on trial – in absentia – along with about 40 other senior officials, for the killing of protesters.

The following weeks will be marked by the anniversaries of uprisings and the resignations of repressive dictators who were ultimately swept away by “a power governments cannot suppress” (transporting a Howard Zinn term to a different region).

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After the Uprisings, Women's Rights Must be Upheld

By Tarah Demant, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

© Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

The theme of this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence — “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women”— is a theme that resonates across the globe.  It’s especially timely in the Middle East and North Africa where we’ve seen unprecedented challenges to military regimes and repressive governments.

Throughout the region, women have joined with men in fighting against increased militarism and in calling for governmental and social reform.  We’ve seen women in the headlines of protest and revolution from Bahrain to Yemen, to Egypt to Tunisia and beyond.

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What Do Tunisia, Palau and the US Have in Common?

Well, it isn’t ratification of the CEDAW treaty but all three countries have made the news lately when it comes to women’s human rights.

CEDAW, formally known as the Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women is the most comprehensive international framework to secure women’s equality. And, as the fight for women’s human rights continues after the recent uprisings in the Middle East, CEDAW is now more vital than ever in the struggle for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa are reforming their governments and women must be a part of this political revolution to ensure the success of these emerging democracies.

Here are some of the latest developments on CEDAW:
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Call For Democracy Rises Again 22 Years After Tiananmen

Amnesty activists in Italy hold signs that say "This is my Tiananmen Square." A similar commemoration would be prohibited in China.

When the so-called Arab Spring swept the Middle East and North Africa, the reverberations also shuddered through Chinese civil society – first as a new wave of online activism, and then as crushing oppression from the Chinese state.

When dissidents began calling for China to stage its own “Jasmine Revolution,” the authorities responded with overwhelming force. Since February the Chinese government has targeted more than 100 activists and human rights defenders.

The weight of such overt oppression — the worst since the 2009’s deadly Urumqi riots — is made particularly acute by the 22nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Although more than two decades have passed since the 1989 protests, the Chinese authorities are quick to extinguish any forms of commemoration, and to silence voices of discontent raised around the politically volatile anniversary.

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Nafousa Mountain Libyans Living In Fear

By Diana Eltahawy, Libya researcher at Amnesty International

The Dhehiba camp in Tunisia currently hosts 1,207 Libyans © Amnesty International

In normal times, Dhehiba is a quiet, small town in southern Tunisia, three kilometres away from the country’s border with Libya. Today, times here are anything but normal.

This area is experiencing a growing influx of Libyans fleeing from their homes in the Nafousa Mountain area of western Libya because of the actions being taken there by Colonel M’uammar Gaddafi’s forces.

The actual number of those fleeing is difficult to establish as most people do not cross at the official border post but instead travel by desert back roads to try and avoid the checkpoints set up by the Libyan leader’s forces. Some do then come to the border post on the Tunisian side to have their passports stamped but others continue on directly to find refuge in Tunisia’s cities.

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