Femicide, the killing of a woman or girl because of her gender, usually by a man, is the most extreme form of gender-based violence. Femicide involves the killing of women and girls because they are female. The United Nations has recognized femicide as the most extreme form of violence against women and girls. Many groups consider femicide to be a hate crime. When it comes to being killed by an intimate partner or family member, Africa had the highest overall number to report.
A wave of outrage in Tunisia following the murder of a young woman by her husband, a police officer. Which led to the resurfacing of the debate on the phenomenon of domestic violence in Tunisia. Her name is Refka Cherni, she is one of the women who had been murdered by their partners in Tunisia in less than two months. Women were stabbed to death, mothers ending up in intensive care units, ex-wives, and kids murdered by ex-husbands. And the list goes on and on!
The terror of being unsafe in your own home is one of the most horrifying feelings. Not only women are not safe on the streets as they have to fight daily sexual harassment and catcalling. Women must remain vigilant in their own homes as they can be sharing a household with a toxic, abusive murderer. Moreover, women are usually afraid to report the violence that occurs in the household. The reasons so many cases go unreported are both personal (embarrassment, fear of vengeance, economic dependency) and societal (imbalanced power relations for men and women in society, privacy of the family, victim-blaming attitudes).
In the case of Refka Cherni, she was forced to withdraw her report as her husband’s colleagues in the police force pressured her to do so. The victim had already filed several complaints against her husband for violence but to no avail. According to the initial data, Refka Cherni even provided a medical certificate for a temporary work absence of 21 days, but her complaints never led to the arrest of the husband who, thanks to his profession, had a network that “protected” him. Several Internet users initiated a denunciation campaign on social media calling for applying the laws, particularly the 2017 law known as Law 58, aiming at defending women against all forms of violence. Since its entrance into force, this text has encountered several difficulties in its application and has still not managed to achieve its objectives.
Not only are Tunisian women often chased by the phantom of traditions and customs, where a wife is not meant to disobey her husband, they are also shackled by the need to protect their family and mainly kids from the society’s cruelty, as until 2021 divorced women are still frowned upon. Women are still crucified for divorcing, not settling down for less than what they deserve, and are shamed for being single, single mothers or not wanting to get married. Can you blame them? With the slight possibility of being imprisoned in the same house with an abusive man, women are more and more encouraged to file for a divorce. There is also the case of Fatma Mkaouar and her son who were killed by her ex-husband. What can we do ? in a state where laws and legislations are no longer a boundary! When corruption and crime are the standard procedure! Where can we, hurt, harassed, abused women report our abusers? Will we finally admit that Tunisia is not a safe nation for women?
Will we, great women, ordinary women, daughters, mothers, and wives ever see the light at the end of the violence tunnel? Will we ever be able to walk home alone at night, speak our mind, have a full night of sleep without the fear of being harassed, raped, beaten, or killed?
Since the pandemic started, behind locked doors, reports of all forms of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, began to rise. The COVID-19 pandemic may be new but the pandemic of violence against women is not. The crisis intensified the violence, even as support services faltered and accessing help became harder.
We must create laws and enforce existing ones that protect women from discrimination and violence, including rape, beatings, verbal abuse, mutilation, torture, “honor” killings, and trafficking. We must promote the peaceful resolution of disputes by including the perspectives of women and girls. Also, it is essential to empower women’s ability to earn money and support their households by providing training for women. Finally, it is crucial to highlight the value of girls’ education and women’s participation in economic development and to raise public awareness of the poor conditions some women face, particularly in rural areas.
About the author:
Yosser Tarchi, born and raised in Tunisia, is a young woman who aspires to be a human rights advocate. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Language, Literature, and Civilization and a master’s degree in International relations. A former member of GirlUp Tunisia, her interest in gender studies expanded which is why she’s currently volunteering for Politics4Her. Her motto? GRL PWR!