On February 29, the Tunisian National Office of Family and Population (ONFP), in cooperation with the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), held a conference in Tunis, where it present the results of a national survey conducted on violence against women.
The National Survey on Violence towards Women in Tunisia (ENVEFT, 2010) questioned 3,873 women aged between 18 and 64, living in all seven regions of Tunisia.
It is the first survey in Tunisia on the topic to be led in accordance with the recommendations of international organizations, adopting globally recognized protocols and definitions. This helped to address one of the major challenges of surveys on the subject of violence against women, according to one of the concluding statements of the ENVEFT. "By applying operational definitions, it allows for estimates and categorizations of violence and comparisons at a national and international level."
For instance, the survey is premised on the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1993. This document defines the term "violence against women" as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."
Furthermore, the survey used the World Health Organization's (WHO) categorization of types of violence (physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence and economic violence) as its test variables. It found that in Tunisia, physical violence is the most frequent type of violence, followed by psychological violence. Coming in third place, sexual violence is less frequent, and economic violence is the least frequent. Approximately one out of five women has experienced physical violence, and one out of six has been the victim of sexual violence.
The survey yielded interesting results, comparing the prevalence of violence overall according to different variables, such as age, the matrimonial status of women or according to if it occurred within the private or publics spheres. It revealed that the private sphere (husband, fiancé, friend) is where a woman is most likely to be exposed to violence . The intimate partner is the author of physical violence in 47.2% cases, of psychological violence in 68.5% of cases, of sexual violence in 78.2% of cases, and of economic violence in 77.9% of cases. Family members are the authors of physical violence in 43% of cases, of psychological violence in 16.7% of cases, and of economic violence in 22.1% of cases.
Outside the private sphere, violence against women is sexual in 21.3% of cases, psychological in 14.8% of cases and physical in 9.8% of cases.
The survey is part of a wider initiative called the Gender Equity and Violence Prevention for Women in Tunisia, led by the ONFP and the AECID and first implemented three years ago.
The survey results were derived from the total number of answers rather than the total number of surveyed women.
Tunisia is home to the Arab world's most progressive legislation regarding women's rights in both the private and public spheres. As early as 1957, the Code of Personal Status abolished polygamy, enforced a minimum marriage age of 17 for females and 20 for males, enforced consensual marriage on both parties, made divorce possible at request of either party and spelled out post-divorce maintenance and financial arrangements, amongst other clauses. This survey on violence against women demonstrates that despite a very progressive legal framework, there is still much to be done before real parity is achieved for Tunisian women.