Rape and Domestic Violence: Although prohibited by law, rape, including spousal rape, remained a serious problem. The government generally enforced the law against rape. The penal code does not address spousal rape. There was no comprehensive database on the incidence of sexual violence, but NGO groups claimed rape continued to be underreported.
Rape accompanied by the use or threat of violence or threats with a weapon are punishable by death. For other cases of rape, the prescribed punishment is life imprisonment. If the victim is under the age of 20, penalties can be more severe (see section 6, Children). Nonconsensual sexual conduct not meeting the definition of rape, such as sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, and molestation, may be prosecuted as “indecent assault,” which is punishable by up to six years in prison, 12 years if the victim is under the age of 18. The punishment is extended to life imprisonment if committed with weapons, threats, or detention or in cases where the victim was mutilated, disfigured, or if the victim’s life was endangered. The sentence is five years in prison for “indecent assault” attempted or committed without violence against a child, which is extended to 10 years if the perpetrator is related to the victim, or holds a position of authority over the victim. Cultural pressures often dissuaded victims from reporting sexual assault.
Rape remained a taboo and underreported subject. Convictions for sexual violence were far below the number of actual incidents. A March study by the Tunisian General Labor Union’s National Commission of Working Women indicated that 32 percent of all women experienced some kind of physical violence, 28.9 percent experienced psychological violence or harassment, 15.7 percent suffered sexual violence or exploitation, and 7 percent experienced economic violence, including financial exploitation, extortion, or deprivation of money or the necessities of life. A large portion of violence against women occurred within marriage, according to the study. An Amnesty International report cited several reasons for underreporting and lack of prosecution for rape and sexual assault, including evidentiary standards that place a high burden on the victim, lack of trust in police and the judicial system, and an inadequate legal definition of sexual assault.
Laws prohibiting domestic violence provide penalties for assault committed by a spouse or family member that are double those of an unrelated individual for the same crime, but enforcement was rare, and domestic violence remained a serious problem.
There were no government public education programs on domestic violence, including rape. Victims received services at two dozen social centers throughout the country. There is a growing demand for services, but social stigma keeps many women from utilizing existing resources.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was a problem, although there was no data to measure its extent. The law requires victims of sexual harassment seeking redress to file a complaint in criminal court, where authorities then investigate the allegations. According to the criminal code, the penalty for sexual harassment is one year in prison and a fine of 3,000 dinars ($1,469). Civil society groups criticized the law on harassment as too vague and susceptible to abuse. During the 2012-13 judicial year, there were only 14 reported convictions for sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of government interference in the right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health and have access to the means and information to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Women had free access to contraception. According to a study conducted by the Office of Family and Population in Tunisia, an estimated 62.5 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception. In collaboration with NGOs, the government maintained its policy of keeping the national birthrate low through public awareness campaigns. The government provided essential health care for women, including skilled attendants during childbirth and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, although some rural women did not have access to these services.
Discrimination: Women faced societal rather than statutory barriers to their economic and political participation. Codified civil law is based on the Napoleonic code, although on occasion judges drew upon interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) as a basis for customary law in family and inheritance disputes.
Newly married couples must state explicitly in the marriage contract whether they elect to combine their possessions or keep them separate. Customary law based on sharia prohibits Muslim women from marrying outside their religion. Sharia requires men, but not women, to provide for their families. Because of this expectation, sharia inheritance law provides, in some instances, men with a larger share of an inheritance. Some families avoided the application of sharia by executing sales contracts between parents and children to ensure that daughters received shares of property equal to those given sons. Non-Muslim women and their Muslim husbands may not inherit from each other. The government considers all children of those marriages to be Muslim and forbids those children from inheriting from their mothers. Spouses may, however, freely give up to a third of their estate to whomever they designate in their will.
Female citizens can transmit citizenship on an equal basis with male citizens. On November 10, parliament amended a law that had previously prohibited a mother from traveling outside the country with minor children without written permission from the father. Under the new amendment, there is no discrimination between a mother and father regarding passport application and authorization to leave the country.
The law explicitly requires equal pay for equal work, and the government generally enforced it. The law allows female employees in the public sector to receive two-thirds of their full-time salary for half-time work, provided they have at least one child under 16 or a child with special needs, regardless of age. Qualifying women may apply for the benefit for a three-year period, renewable twice for a maximum of nine years. The government defended the law as allowing women to balance family and professional life, but some women’s rights advocates believed treating women and men differently under the law infringed women’s rights. Societal and cultural barriers significantly reduced women’s participation in the formal labor force, in particular in managerial positions. Women in the private sector earned on average one-quarter less than men for similar work.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: The ratio of boy-to-girl births was 107 to 100. There was no information on any government efforts to address this imbalance.