Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, spousal and nonspousal, occurred. The law criminalizes nonspousal rape but does not address spousal rape. Prison sentences for nonspousal rape range from one to five years. Claims filed by women for rape and sexual abuse continued to face judicial obstacles, and many women did not report incidents of rape because of societal pressures and bureaucratic problems in securing convictions. During the year women’s rights activists reported a significant increase in reports of violence against women.
Spousal abuse occurred. The penal code states that a person must be incapacitated for 15 days or more and present a doctor’s note certifying the injuries before filing charges for battery.
Domestic NGOs reported that physical violence against women increased. A report during the year from the national police reported that within the first six months of 2010, more than 4,000 women lodged domestic violence complaints with police. The report emphasized that social status or educational background did not prevent domestic violence. According to the police report, four women died in the first months of 2010 because of domestic violence. In December the national police reported that approximately 7,000 women were victims of domestic violence during the first nine months of 2011. There were 13 call centers to provide legal and psychological assistance.
During the year local women’s NGOs, including SOS Femmes en Detresse, the Wassila Network, and Bent Fatma N’Soumer, spoke against violence in the family. SOS Femmes en Detresse and the Wassila Network provided judicial and psychological counseling to abused women. Women’s rights groups experienced difficulty in drawing attention to spousal abuse as an important social problem, largely due to traditional societal attitudes. Several rape crisis centers run by women’s groups operated, but they had few resources. The Working Women section of the General Union of Algerian Workers established a counseling center for women suffering from sexual harassment in the workplace. SOS Femmes en Detresse operated one call center in Algiers, but a second call center in Batna was closed. During the first eight months of the year, the Algiers call center received more than 1,400 calls.
Sexual Harassment: The punishment for sexual harassment is one to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 dinars (approximately $677 to $1,350). The punishment is doubled for a second offense. According to the final report of the UN rapporteur, women reported 99 cases of sexual harassment to the police between January and October 2010. The majority of reported cases of harassment occurred in the workplace. SOS Femmes en Detresse provided legal advice and counseling to 860 women; however, only 40 of the women seeking assistance filed formal complaints.
Reproductive Rights: The government did not impose restrictions on the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, timing, and spacing of their children. There were no restrictions on access to contraceptives, yet contraceptives were harder to obtain for single women or women in rural areas. In 2009 the Health Ministry’s Office of Family Planning conducted a public health awareness campaign. According to the office, 62 percent of women, mainly married, regularly used contraceptives. Government hospitals provided skilled attendance during childbirth as well as obstetric and postpartum care and equally diagnosed and treated women for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Due to restrictions women face under the family code, which places women under the guardianship of men, as well as the social influence of the country’s religious movements, women encounter pressure in making independent decisions about their health and reproductive rights.
Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for gender equality, some aspects of the law and many traditional social practices discriminate against women. In addition, religious extremists advocated practices that restrict women’s behavior, including freedom of movement. In some rural regions, women faced extreme social pressure to veil as a precondition for freedom of movement and employment. The family code contains elements of Sharia (Islamic law). The family code prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims, although this regulation was not always enforced. A woman may marry a foreigner and transmit citizenship and nationality to both her children and spouse. Muslim men may marry non-Muslim women.
Women can seek divorce for irreconcilable differences and violation of a prenuptial agreement. In a divorce the law provides for the wife to retain the family’s home until children reach 18 years of age. Custody of children normally is awarded to the mother, but she may not make decisions on education or take the children out of the country without the father’s authorization. In practice, more women retained the family’s home if they had custody of the children.
The family code affirms the Islamic practice of allowing a man to marry as many as four wives. According to the family code, polygamy is only permitted upon the permission of the first wife and the determination of a judge as to the husband’s financial ability to support an additional wife. In practice, however, this occurred in 1 to 2 percent of marriages.
Amendments to the family code supersede the Sharia requirement that a male sponsor consent to the marriage of a woman. Although this requirement has been formally retained and the sponsor continues to contract the marriage, the woman may choose any man that she wishes to be the sponsor. The sponsor represents the woman during the religious or civil ceremony. Some families subject women to virginity tests before marriage.
Women suffered from discrimination in inheritance claims and were entitled to a smaller portion of an estate than male children or a deceased husband’s brothers. The law purports that such a distinction is justified because other provisions require that the husband’s income and assets be used to support the family, while in principle the wife’s remain her own. In practice women did not often have exclusive control over assets that they brought to a marriage or that they earned. Married women may take out business loans and use their own financial resources. Despite constitutional and legal provisions providing for gender equality, in practice women faced discrimination in employment. Leaders of women’s organizations reported that discriminatory violations were common and that women were less likely to receive equal pay for equal work or receive promotions. In urban areas, there was social encouragement for women to pursue higher education and/or a career. Girls graduated from high school more frequently than did boys. According to 2010 statistics, women represented 55 percent of the medical profession, 60 percent of the media profession, 30 percent of the upper levels of the legal profession, and more than 60 percent of the education profession. In addition, 36 percent of judges were women. Women served at all levels in the judicial system, and female police officers were added to some precincts to assist women with abuse claims. Of nine million workers nationally, two million were female. Women may own businesses, enter into contracts, and pursue careers similar to those of men.