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Campaign to end violence against women progresses in MENA region

27 September, 2017IndustriALL Global Union affiliates have been taking an active role in helping to push through new laws improving women’s rights in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. 

Both Jordan and Tunisia passed important legislation this summer improving the protection of women, while in Morocco the parliament is reviewing a draft to set up a new institution for equality. IndustriALL affiliates have been involved in these processes.

IndustriALL MENA regional women’s network launched a campaign to stop violence against women in August 2016. In its last meeting in Casablanca from 28-29 August 2017, the network declared the passing of the new laws to be a big victory for the advance and protection of women’s rights.

The text adopted by the Tunisian parliament in July 2017 recognizes not only physical, but also psychological and economic violence. It sets up measures to protect and care for victims. It recognizes the role of the media and education in the prevention of violence. Above all, it repeals a very controversial provision of the Penal Code, which allowed a rapist to escape prosecution if he married his underage victim. In August, the same controversial provision was repealed in Jordanian legislation.

In Tunisia, IndustriALL affiliates have already begun raising awareness among their members about the new law. According to affiliates, the next step is start to work on the implementation of the new law. According to a study conducted by a Tunisian state agency last August, 54 per cent of Tunisian women have experienced different forms of violence, whether in public spaces, at work, at school or in the economic and political sectors. Participants in the MENA regional network meeting from other countries including Palestine, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco also denounced the ongoing violence against women at workplace in their countries, and the fact that most of violence goes unreported as the issue is still a taboo. Unions reported on their actions that have been taking to address this violence in their work place.

“Women are facing harassment everywhere: at home, in the street, in the taxis, at work… Attitudes need to change! Violence against women is unacceptable. Our unions will continue to fight against it,” said Latifa Benwakrim from the Moroccan energy workers’ union, SNIPGN-CDT, and regional coordinator for IndustriALL MENA regional women’s network.  

The campaign to end violence against women is part of a broader strategy by the regional and national IndustriALL women networks in MENA to promote equal rights and women’s leadership in the workplace and unions. Participants at the meeting in Casablanca reported on actions and trainings organized over the past year in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia to increase women members’ knowledge on trade union and workers’ rights. As well as campaigning for the government of Tunisia to ratify ILO Convention 183 on maternity protection, unions in Tunisia have been fighting for better inclusion of women in union decision-making structures, under the slogan ‘Women unionists are effective leaders’. In Morocco, unions continue to discuss and influence a draft law which will set up a new institution for equality.

The network resolved to continue its campaign to end violence against women and link it with the ongoing international campaign for an ILO Convention on gender based violence. The network will also seek to reinforce coordination among the network to strengthen the campaign. The affiliates will produce regional tools (such as leaflets and videos) to progress the campaign.