Violence against women in Tunisia has taken on a new dimension and has become a national dilemma that must be condemned and acted upon by the authorities and by society as a whole. Sadly, and based on well documented cases, our government tends to regard violence against women largely as a private matter between individuals, and not as a pervasive human rights problem requiring State intervention.
Violence against women takes a dismaying variety of forms, from domestic abuse and rape to child marriages and may be soon, female circumcision. All are violations of the most fundamental human rights.
It is true that violence, in all its forms, existed under the previous regime of Ben Ali, but was kept away from the television screens and the front pages of newspapers. It is also true that due to access to social media and relative freedom of the media, we have become more aware of the extent of this social disease.
I do believe that we are witnessing a frightening phenomenon due to some of men’s newly found attitudes towards women, fueled by ignorance and lack of sensitivity. Furthermore, I believe some of these attitudes towards women are organically homegrown, fed by extremist religious views imported by preachers and religious peddlers. It may also be lack of respect, empathy and total disregard for basic human rights, led by a makeshift government that has done everything in its power, except protect women and children.
As I read about the rape of a young girl in day care in La Marsa, a handicapped little child, and a female dancer in Sousse, I am of the opinion of the existence of hundreds many more cases that go unnoticed in other parts of the country. Many little girls go to sleep frightened of males they are supposed to love, and wives terrified of being sexually attacked by drunken husbands.
We must press for immediate legal action against those who perpetrate organized violence against children and women. I am especially sad of the little attention these cases received from civil society today as a march was organized in front of the ministry of women.
Our elected officials in the ANC must implement national legislation to end violence against women and children. We must, as a “civilized” society, immediately move to organize shelters, legal aid and other services for girls and women at risk, and counseling and rehabilitation for perpetrators.