Tunisian women condemn silence on femicide

The number of femicide cases in Tunisia is alarming due to the silence on femicide and the policy of immunity.


Tunisia- Both the judiciary and government officials do not fulfill their responsibilities to prevent femicide in Tunisia. Yesterday, the members of women’s organizations gathered in front of the building of the governorate in Kef, the north-western region of the country, to attend the first hearing of the murder of Refka Charni, who was killed by her husband, a National Guard officer in Kef.

After the hearing, the women’s organizations released a press statement. In the statement, the women said that the start of the trial based on Law No. 58 of 2017 is a victory for women’s struggle since the perpetrator is a National Guard officer.

The women also condemned the high rates of gender-based violence and femicide cases, the continuation of the policy of justifying violence from socio-cultural grounds that supported patriarchal mentality, the existence of unjust and discriminatory laws and the failure of the authorities and the judiciary to fulfill their duties in protecting women.

Fathia Al-Saidi, a Tunisian sociologist and feminist, thinks that Law No. 58 is still in force; however, it has not been effectively implemented. She also emphasized that the many victims of violence were killed although they filed for a protection order.

“Violence against women is normalized. The rate of violence against women and femicide cases has increased in the last five months. 17 women were killed by men in the last five months as a result of social, economic and political reasons. We must raise our voice against gender-based violence. The law protecting women against violence is not effectively implemented due to the lack of effective mechanisms. Women chant the slogan, ‘The law in the prison while women are in graves’. This slogan reveals the tragedy that women suffer from.”

‘The murder trial of Refka Charni started after two years’

 Neila Zoghlami, the president of the Tunisian Association of the Democratic Women (ATFD), pointed out that the murder trial of Refka Charni started after two years. “Two years after the cold-blooded killing of Refka Charni, her abusive husband stood trial for the first time and this is a victory for feminists,” she said.

 “Laws have to protect women and we demand these laws be effectively implemented. The perpetrators must appear before the court and receive the punishment they deserve. However, these laws have not been effectively implemented due to the lack of strategies, budget and women’s shelters. We hope the murder trial of Refka Charni will be an example for the killers so that they will understand that they will not go unpunished.”

 Karima Brini, co-founder of the Association of Women and Citizenship in Kef (French: L’Association Femme et Citoyenneté, AFC), thinks that everyone is responsible for the spread of violence against women by supporting the patriarchal mentality that allows men to control women and inflict violence against women without fear.

Emphasizing that the lack of awareness in society about gender equality causes more killings of women, Karima Brini said, “The femicide cases increase because the authorities do not fulfill their duties. Women victims of violence file criminal complaints against the perpetrators; however, the authorities do not take any measure to protect them. The politicians still consider violence against women as a secondary issue. Women need policies and plans protecting them from violence.”

 On May 9, 2021, Refka Charni, a 26-year-old mother of a two-year-old child, was shot at close range by her husband in Kef. She had filed a complaint against him for domestic violence on May 7; however, she had to withdraw her complaint on May 8 due to family pressure.