HuffPost Her Stories: How Tunisia’s 'Perfect On Paper' Domestic Violence Law Is Working

Plus: Britain gets its first black female history professor.
Tunisian women chant slogans and wave their national flags during a demonstration to mark Tunisia’s Women’s Day on Aug. 13, 2018.
Tunisian women chant slogans and wave their national flags during a demonstration to mark Tunisia’s Women’s Day on Aug. 13, 2018.

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Dear reader,

Last year, Tunisia’s parliament passed one of the strongest domestic violence laws in the region — one that protects women from physical, economic and psychological abuse and even bans harassment in public.

But nongovernmental organizations, government officials and survivors of domestic violence who met late last month to assess how the law is being implemented reported a host of shortcomings.

HuffPost Maghreb’s Rihab Boukhayatia attended the meeting and wrote about the logistical barriers that are preventing some women from filing complaints and social pressures that are keeping others from even trying.

I remember reading about the “landmark” law when it passed and appreciated Rihab’s update — a reality check that highlights the vast gulf that often exist between what a law promises and is actually able to offer.

Despite the bumpy start, Rihab said the law is critical for women in Tunisia and worth whatever training and investment it takes to properly implement.

“Violence against women — such as sexual harassment, rape, incest, domestic violence — is deeply rooted in [Tunisian] society,” she said. “Incest and marital rape are the biggest taboos and victims are suffering in silence. The perpetrators of this violence often enjoy a degree of impunity: Society tolerates and justifies violence by men. Victims are told to keep quiet to preserve their marriage, their family or their ‘honor.’ This law, considered tough from the perspective of the perpetrators of violence, is an exceptional step forward to stem impunity and, above all, to change mentalities.”

As Rihab’s report shows, the system is slowly improving and women are able to navigate an underfunded, understaffed system to have more access than ever before to legal, social and psychological support.

Until next time,


For more on women in Tunisia, readers of French can follow @HuffPostTunisie and @HuffPostMaghreb. And all subscribers should stay tuned for more on Tunisia as the country debates new laws that would offer women equal inheritance and extend parental leave.

Meet Olivette Otele, Britain’s First Ever Black Female History Professor

Olivette Otele became Britain’s first black female history professor — ever — when she accepted a position at Bath Spa University a few weeks ago. She told HuffPost U.K. that news of the barrier-breaking appointment was strange. “I say ‘strange’ because I am the first and, well, it’s 2018.” (Indeed!) In the U.K., black historians make up less than 1 percent of university history staff, HuffPost U.K. reported. Sue Rigby, the vice chancellor of the university, said the school was “delighted” to offer Otele the “well-merited promotion,” particularly if it “also plays a small part in correcting the under-representation of women and people of colour in UK Universities.” Otele, a Cameroon-born, Sorbonne-educated woman with a Ph.D. who specializes in European Colonial and post-Colonial history, noted how many hard-working women — especially women of color — are working in academia. “I hope this will open the door to more of them receiving the recognition they deserve,” she said.

Controversial Indian Film Challenges Notion Of ‘Love Jihad’

Sara Ali Khan in Kedarnath.
Sara Ali Khan in Kedarnath.

Every week, HuffPost India has been taking a look at how women are portrayed in pop culture, and this week it cast a spotlight on a controversial new Hindi-language film called “Kedarnath.” Piyasree Dasgupta writes that the film has been banned in parts of the country over objections that it glorifies ”‘love jihad,’ a phenomenon in which Muslim men whisk away Hindu women who are believed to have a nondescript vegetable where their brain should be.” The film has shortcomings, Piyasree writes, but “love jihad” is not among them; its female protagonist, Mukku, is the one chasing the Muslim man. “Mukku’s persistence in pursuing a man who isn’t ‘right’ by the books of the life she is made to live is her way of exercising agency — something the ‘love jihad’ theorists do not attribute to women at all,” she argues. The film is a “slap in the face” to those who subscribe to this problematic theory.

In case you missed it…

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Sex Trafficking Victim Talks About Modern Slavery In London: ‘I Was Just A Normal Girl’