Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, both 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, and the law was generally effectively enforced. 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. At year’s end statistics on prosecutions and convictions for rape were unavailable.
Spousal abuse occurred. The penal code states that a person must be “incapacitated” for 15 days and a woman claiming domestic abuse must visit a “forensic physician” for an examination to document injuries. The physician then provides the victim with a “certificate of incapacity” attesting to the injuries. The victim then presents the certificate to authorities as the basis of the criminal complaint.
In early 2011 the government established a hotline for victims of domestic violence. Calls to the hotline (known by the number “1526”) were received at a response center staffed 24 hours a day that provided referral to psychologists, sociologists, legal experts, and doctors.
At year’s end no statistics on domestic abuse were available.
Harmful Traditional Practices: There are no human rights organizations in the country with a focus on honor crimes. On March 15, Algiers daily El Moudjahid reported on the case of an Algiers man who killed his fiancee in a cemetery after accusing her of infidelity. At year’s end the perpetrator was in prison awaiting trial on murder charges. The law provides a “crime of passion” defense to both men and women who discover their spouses engaged in the act of adultery, which lessens the punishment of the perpetrator. The provisions of the law limit the defense to lawfully married spouses.
Sexual Harassment: The punishment for sexual harassment is one to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of DZD 50,000 to DZD 100,000 (approximately $640 to $1,300). The punishment is doubled for a second offense. The majority of reported cases of harassment occurred in the workplace.
On October 14, a court in Algiers convicted Said Lamrani, director of Algerian national television network TV4 and close confidant of President Bouteflika, of sexual harassment and sentenced him to a six-month suspended prison term. Prosecutors originally sought a sentence of one year of imprisonment and a fine of DZD 30,000 (approximately $385) and at year’s end indicated that they would seek to reopen the case and demand increased penalties in line with those required by law. Lamrani is the first person in Algerian history to be convicted of sexual harassment. In addition to his conviction, Lamrani was relieved of his professional duties.
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. Married and unmarried women alike had access to contraceptives. According to a study conducted in 2009 by the health ministry, 62 percent of women, most of them married, reported regular use of contraceptives. Abortion is illegal, and international observers estimate that 10 percent of all obstetric hospital admissions are abortion related. Government hospitals provided skilled attendants during childbirth as well as obstetric and postpartum care. Women encountered social and family pressure in making independent decisions about their health and reproductive rights.
Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for gender equality, many aspects of the law and traditional social practices discriminate against women. In addition, religious extremists advocated practices that led to restrictions on 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 traditional elements of Islamic law. The family code prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims, although this regulation was not always enforced. Muslim men may marry non-Muslim women. A woman may marry a foreigner and transmit citizenship and nationality to both her children and spouse.
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 religiously based 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, polygamy occurred in 1 to 2 percent of marriages, and it is unclear whether the law was followed in all cases.
Amendments to the family code supersede the religiously based requirement that a male sponsor consent to the marriage of a woman. The sponsor represents the woman during the religious or civil ceremony. 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 her sponsor. Some families subjected 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. 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. Women enjoy rights equal to those of men in regard to property ownership, and women landowners’ names are listed on property titles.
Women faced discrimination in employment. Leaders of women’s organizations reported that discrimination was common and 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 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.