Cortez Masto Commends Tunisian Government and Civil Society for Women’s Rights Efforts Ahead of U.S. State Department Visit
Reno, Nev. – Ahead of U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan’s trip to Tunisia, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) sent a letter to the Tunisian government commending the recent passage of the Law on Eliminating Violence Against Women. If properly implemented, the law has the potential to increase stability in Tunisia and strengthen protections for Tunisian women. During this critical period in their transition to democracy, Cortez Masto urges the Tunisian government to form a plan to fully implement the law in order to capitalize on the progress marked by its passage.
“The passage of the Law on Eliminating Violence Against Women is an important advancement in implementing Tunisia’s new constitution’s provisions on gender equality,” wrote Cortez Masto. “It showcases to the world the remarkable work of Tunisian women’s rights organizations, elected officials, and religious and community leaders to broaden protections for women experiencing violence and harassment.”
Cortez Masto continued, “As partners who share your interest in gender equality, we look forward to supporting you in implementing the law. We are aware that implementation of an important milestone such as this reform is often stalled by financial, technical or operational barriers. We are keen to discuss your plans for implementation and benchmarks you hope to see along the way, from training members of the Ministry of Justice to ensure adequate funding for the Ministry of Health and education programs.”
In addition to the letter, Cortez Masto issued the following quote:
“As one of the emerging successes of the Arab spring, Tunisia and its transition to democracy remain an important focus for US national security interests,” Cortez Masto said. “While there are certainly deficits and areas of concern in Tunisia's democratic reform, as we discussed those challenges, we must also celebrate and support the successes.”
A copy of the letter can be found below:
November 16, 2017
President Beji Caid Essebsi
The Embassy of the Republic of Tunisia
1515 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20005
Dear President Essebsi and Members of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People:
We write to congratulate you on the recent enactment of the Law on Eliminating Violence Against Women. The law, passed in July of this year, is a necessary step in strengthening protections for Tunisian women against domestic violence and sexual harassment, as well as expanding resources for victims of these terrible crimes. As you well know, its passage comes amid a series of other positive developments in enhancing gender equality in Tunisia, at a critical time in Tunisia’s democratic transition. We look forward to working with your government to ensure the law is fully implemented. As your government works to implement the law, we also urge you to continue pursuing genuine democratic reform, without which these advances for women's rights may be lost.
The passage of the Law on Eliminating Violence Against Women is an important advancement in implementing Tunisia’s new constitution’s provisions on gender equality. It showcases to the world the remarkable work of Tunisian women’s rights organizations, elected officials, and religious and community leaders to broaden protections for women experiencing violence and harassment. While Tunisia has long been at the forefront of women’s socioeconomic rights in the Arab world, many women still face harassment or abuse in their day to day lives. According to a 2010 survey, 47.6 percent of women between the ages of 18 to 64 have been the victim of some form of violence in their lives. More recent surveys suggest as many as 50 to 60 percent of Tunisian women have experienced domestic violence or aggression. This law offers hope to those women, but also to their families, their communities, and Tunisian society as a whole, who are all harmed by domestic violence.
We welcome the comprehensive approach the Law on Eliminating Violence Against Women takes in enhancing protections for women by introducing new criminal provisions for domestic violence and sexual harassment, while strengthening existing penalties; abolishing the decades-old legal protection for rape perpetrators who marry their victims; creating programs that aim to prevent violence in society and provide support when it happens; requiring preventative education in schools; directing the Health Ministry to train health workers in detecting signs of abuse; and mandating legal, medical and mental health support for survivors, among other provisions. Combined with the decision in September to rescind law number 73 and President Essebsi’s proposed changes to Tunisian inheritance law, these steps will enable women to more fully contribute to Tunisia’s economic growth, democratic development, and vibrant civil society.
Tunisia has served as a model for peaceful transition to democracy since the 2011 popular uprising. While work remains to consolidate those gains, we count the anti-violence law as one of many successes in that effort. It builds on a tradition of advancing women’s rights that dates back to the 1956 Personal Status Laws. We encourage you to use the law to continue to advance both objectives, by promoting women’s rights within a broader national effort to consolidate democratic gains, strengthen institutions, and support civil society.
As partners who share your interest in gender equality, we look forward to supporting you in implementing the law. We are aware that implementation of an important milestone such as this reform is often stalled by financial, technical or operational barriers. We are keen to discuss your plans for implementation and benchmarks you hope to see along the way, from training members of the Ministry of Justice to ensure adequate funding for the Ministry of Health and education programs. We also hope the upcoming municipal elections scheduled for spring of 2018 will offer an opportunity to enact and enforce this legislation on the local level, in addition to building a plan for citizen education on the law, particularly in the interior and the south. Finally, we look forward to discussing how this law and its implementation fit into your government’s broader plans to strengthen good governance and democracy in Tunisia.
Congratulations again on this notable achievement. We look forward to discussing it with you, along with the future achievements to come.
 Office National de la Famille et de la Population, Ministère de la Sante Publique, Enquête Nationale sur la Violence a l’Egard des Femmes en Tunisia: Rapport de l’enquête (Tunis, December 2010).
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