Several awareness campaigns have been launched to educate women about domestic violence. Image Credit: Twitter

Tunis: Tunisia’s parliament on Wednesday passed a bill designed to “end all violence against women”, strengthening protection and help for victims in a move welcomed by rights groups.

“It’s a very moving moment and we are proud in Tunisia to have been able to gather around a historical project,” said women’s minister Naziha Laabidi.

The new law, which is expected to enter into force next year, recognises “physical, moral and sexual” violence, lawmaker Bochra Belhaj Hmida told AFP after the vote.

It will provide for judicial and psychological assistance for victims of domestic violence and removes a controversial article that allows men to escape punishment for rape if they marry their victim.

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.

The law on violence against women, including domestic violence, approved by the Tunisian parliament on July 26, 2017, is a landmark step for women’s rights, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

Tunisian authorities should ensure that there is adequate funding and political will to put the law fully into effect and to eliminate discrimination against women, it added.

Women face high rates of domestic violence in Tunisia, with at least 47 percent of women experiencing domestic violence in their lives, according to a 2010 survey from the National Family Office.

However, until the passage of the Law on Eliminating Violence Against Women, there had been no specific law on domestic violence.

The new law also includes provisions on harassment in public spaces and economic discrimination.

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

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

Tunisian women’s rights organisations have campaigned for a domestic violence law for decades. Their lobbying also persuaded legislators to eliminate from the penal code a provision that allowed a rapist to escape punishment if he married his victim, striking a blow against impunity for rape.

The law includes elements that are essential to prevent violence against women, protect domestic violence survivors, and prosecute abusers.