Violence against women in Tunisia is manifested by the phenomenon of sexual harassment in public transport, which has become a widespread phenomenon in recent years, as the “Centre de recherche, d'études, de documentation et d'information sur les femmes (CREDEF)” interviewed 3000 women last year, It has been proven that half of them had been victims of harassment on public transport Despite the existence of laws that protect women, criminalise the harasser and impose sanctions on him, the phenomenon is still present and young Tunisian women suffer from it every day.
When arriving daily at metro or bus stations and other public transport in the morning to go to work or study or in the evening when people go home, it is interesting that some young men look at girls as if they were prey waiting for the right moment to attack them. The transport arrives and opens its doors, everyone jostles to get on board, and as for this harasser seizing the opportunity to approach any girl and sexually harass her, you see him using overcrowding as an excuse to stick to the girls and practise the most horrific types of abuse of women, which is harassment with her hand or any other part of her body, sometimes you see the girl upset because of the extent of the abuse, and sometimes you see her as vulnerable and she has no means to fight off this harasser for fear of society which always condemns the girl. The harasser has social immunity.
An endemic phenomenon and rare complaints
The Tunisian law No. 2017-58 of 11 August 2017 on the elimination of violence against women states in its Article 226: "Any perpetrator of sexual harassment will be punished by two years' imprisonment and a fine of five thousand dinars". The law defines sexual harassment as "any aggression against another person by acts or Signs or sayings containing sexual connotations that offend his dignity or offend his modesty, with the aim of making him respond to the aggressor's desires or the desires of others, or to exert dangerous pressure on him that would weaken his ability to cope with such pressure.
Despite the existence of this law to deter attempts at harassment, the phenomenon continues, and the reason seems to be that it is difficult to stop the harasser if his identity is unknown.
In a study carried out by Cardiff last year, he reported that only 3% of Tunisian girls who have been harassed report the incident, and here a question mark and a big question arise. If the phenomenon of harassment is widespread and there is a legal text that criminalises the harasser and imposes sanctions on him, why don't girls file complaints? Submit a complaint when they are victims of harassment?
From victim to guilty
It seems that the real problem in this issue is not only a legal problem, but also a purely social problem represented in the vision of the male community of women and their permanent responsibility even if they are victims.
In this context, some girls in Tunisia have launched a campaign against harassment in Tunisia called "Anna Zada" meaning "Me too" similar to previous campaigns such as "Zina" and "The harasser does not come up with us". The campaign page on Facebook, which today reached about fifty thousand followers to encourage girls who had been harassed on public transport to talk about what they had experienced, so that the girls would write their stories on the page and after turning it, we found that most of those who wrote about their incidents of harassment did not report them to the police or even inform their families or confront the harasser for fear of the reaction that may be hostile to them, SL says in this context: "I was harassed while I was going to work in the metro, where the harasser tied me up by the back, so I turned to him and shouted at him in front of everyone, so more than one person in the metro tried to silence me, saying: "Shut up and don't tarnish your reputation" as if I was the guilty one! "
In a monitoring process we conducted in the Tunisian street with randomly selected girls, after answering the question of whether they had ever been harassed on public transport, the next question was: have you ever reported an incident of harassment to which you were exposed? Some of them replied that they did not report the incident and preferred to keep the matter to themselves, while others said that they had informed their families, but they refused and prevented them from going to the police so that the problem would not get worse and for fear of what people would say as they said.
In the face of this phenomenon and these degrading practices of women and their existence, society remains in need of awareness and consciousness that talking is a necessity and not a defect, and that the real culprit in this matter is the harasser who touch women's bodies because he thinks he can do what he wants without being responsible or censured, and forcing women into silence, he got the harasser used to it and practiced his action while reassuring and relying on the victim's silence, and consequently on the high rate of harassment and stalkers in society. The responsibility also lies with the authorities who must take action to enforce the law.
Various women's rights actors and campaigns against harassment in public transport and harassment in general try to cultivate a culture of breaking the silence, but the main step is to raise awareness in society and families about the negative effects of harassment on the victim's psyche and the extent to which it contributes to the high rate of harassment when they incriminate the victim and give the perpetrator absolute immunity.
Written by: Zainab ALOKAIDI