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Informal Work In Tunisia: A Factor To Be Included In Strategies Addressing Gender Based Violence

Informal Work in Tunisia: A Factor to be Included in Strategies Addressing Gender Based Violence

Photo: Mégane Ghorbani

FRIDAY FILE: To commemorate International Domestic Workers’ Day on June 16 and in parallel to a seminar considering a unified strategy against violence against women in Tunisia, hosted by the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development’s in Tunis on June 13, 2014, AWID takes a look at the instruments available and the gaps that still exist in addressing violence against informal women workers in Tunisia.

By Mégane Ghorbani

Article 46 of the new Tunisian constitution states that “The State shall take all necessary measures to eradicate violence against women” [1]. Three months after its enactment, the May 2014 recommendations made in Tunisia by the mechanisms of the United Nations’ human rights system [2], stipulate that violence cannot be eradicated without reforming legal codes. These recommendations also emphasize the need to strengthen oversight of informal sector work.

Women in the informal sector

The economic crisis has intensified the growth of informal work globally [3]. In Tunisia, informal employment, defined by researcher Nidhal Ben Cheikh as, “unprotected employment or the absence of social protection” [4], accounts for 54% of jobs. [5]. According to the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), the informal sector affects 85% of Tunisian enterprises [6].

While the population of working age “15 and over” is almost equally male and female [7], there are gender inequalities in terms of access to employment in the formal sector, notably an unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2014 of 21.5% for women, compared to 12.7% for men [8]. This unequal access to the formal labour market pushes more women into the informal sector.  A survey conducted in 2013 on informal workers in Greater Tunis shows that unlike men, all women are aware of their labour situation and some say “informal work is our lot in life” [9].

In the textile industry, a 2012 research project focused on violations of women workers’ economic and social rights in the coastal region of Monastir [10]. The study shows that 86% of the workforce is female because of the perceived low wages; and it discusses cases of informality in sectors that are ostensibly formal. Twenty six percent of women workers surveyed did not have social protection and 12.7% did not even have a job contract. Seven percent of women workers are illiterate and only 46% attended primary school.

A multidimensional form of violence

Regardless of gender, informal workers are all victims of a form of systemic discrimination in Tunisian society because of their lack of social status recognized by the state; and their subsequent exclusion from social services, with no protection from National Social Security or National Health Insurance. Informal women workers, however, have to contend with other forms of gender-based violence.

Firstly, they experience gender-based discrimination because of the patriarchal system in Tunisian society. Research conducted on the situation of women in rural areas in 2013 shows that they have limited access to formal and informal financial support, especially when seeking investments, because “they are considered less creditworthy than men ” [11]. In addition, because of the gendered division of roles within the family, some women do not control the money they themselves have generated. As one participant stated in a report on women’s work in agriculture[12], “Indeed, it is rare to see women sitting around doing nothing, when we gather to chat and whenever we have a free moment, we weave. Moreover, blankets and carpets are a true form of savings because whenever he needs cash, the head of the family can go sell them at the nearest weekly market and use the funds.”

Furthermore, violence in informal work places is pervasive and many women are victims of violence and sexual harassment. A survey by the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development (AFTURD) on full time domestic workers, of which 96.7% [13] have no job contract; also shows that 14.2% of respondents claim to have been victims of sexual abuse at the hand of their employers. Worryingly 16.2% young women say they were forced into sexual touching and 18.2% into forced sexual intercourse. In addition, many women workers in the region of Monastir claim their low social status leaves them vulnerable to street harassment [14]. These attacks generally go unreported, as women in informal work have no legal protection. All of these factors undermine women’s rights and perpetuate gender inequalities in the society

Instruments to counter this violence

In Tunisia, workers are protected by various international and national instruments: the International Labour Organization (ILO) instruments, including Convention No. 118 concerning equal treatment in matters of social security; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol adopted by Tunisia, on which the reservations were officially lifted in April 2014, should ensure the principles of gender equality and non-discrimination, including stereotyped gender roles and prejudice (art. 5), rural women (art. 14), employment (Article 11) and bank loans (art.13) [15]. The Tunisian labour code also regulates work relationships and conditions, as well as penalties for violations. The new Constitution [16], adopted in January 2014, establishes in its preamble the equality of all citizens, the right to work in decent conditions (Article 40) and the role of the State in the fight against violence and guaranteeing of women’s rights (Art. 46).

Gaps, contradictions and lack of implementation

Despite all these instruments ostensibly available to address violence against informal women workers, a major hurdle persists in Tunisia in challenging informality as a factor, due to some legislative gaps or contradictions within the new constitution. The Penal Code, specifically Articles 218, 227a, 226b and 239, does not provide an overriding law that criminalizes all forms of violence against women [17]. Additionally, Tunisia has not yet ratified Convention No. 189 of the ILO on decent work for domestic workers to ensure the “right to a healthy and safe working environment” (art.13). Also, the Tunisian labour code does not mention gender based violence or sexual harassment.

In light of these loopholes, the ongoing development of a new legal framework – which was discussed during a December 2013 seminar hosted by the Ministry of Women’s and Family Affairs, the European Council and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities – should also take into account the aspect of informality of women’s employment to effectively address all forms of gender based violence.

In addition, organizations supporting victims of gender-based violence have a role to play on the ground, because as Saloua Kannou, AFTURD president, explained, “establishing a database on violence against women in Tunisia will limit the prevalence of this phenomenon” [18].

[1]Constitution de La République Tunisienne, 26 janvier 2014.

[2]The recommendations by the mechanisms of the United Nations’ human rights system in Tunisia, OHCHR Tunisia, May 2014.

[3]Global employment trends for women, International Labour Organization, December 2012.

[4] Nidhal Ben Cheikh, “L’extension de la protection sociale à l’économie informelle à l’épreuve de la transition en Tunise », Centre de Recherches et d’Etudes Sociales”, May 2013.

[5]Tunisia: Economic Challenges and Social Post – Revolution, African Development Bank, 2012.

[6]Exploratory study on human trafficking in Tunisia, International Organization for Migration – Tunisian Republic, June 2013.

[7] Women represent about 150,000 more people in the first quarter 2014.Source: Evolution de la population en âge d’activité ” 15 ans et plus ” selon le sexe 2006-2014, Institut National de la Statistique.

[8] Taux de chômage selon le sexe 2006-2014, Institut National de la Statistique. Note that these figures are contested due to the obsolete calculation methods used by the official statistics institutions.

[9] Tunisian Inclusive Labor Initiative (TLILI) study, El Amouri Institute, January 2013.

[10] Violations des droits économiques et sociaux des femmes travailleuses dans le secteur du textile, Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux, 2013.

[11]Recherche sur la situation des femmes en milieu rural tunisien et leur accès aux services publics dans onze gouvernorats de la Tunisie, CEDR-Agricole, décembre 2013.

[12] Le travail des femmes dans le secteur agricole: Entre précarité et empowerment, Population Council, June 2011.

[13]Les aides ménagères à temps complet. Violences et non droits. AFTURD, 2008-2009.

[14]Violations des droits économiques et sociaux des femmes travailleuses dans le secteur du textile, Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux, 2013

[15] Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.

[16]Constitution de La République Tunisienne, 26 janvier 2014.

[17]The recommendations by the mechanisms of the United Nations’ human rights system in Tunisia, OHCHR Tunisia

[18] “Une base de données et une stratégie unifiée pour lutter contre la violence à l’égard des femmes”, Babnet Tunisie, 13 juin 2014 .

From: http://www.awid.org/News-Analysis/Friday-Files/Informal-Work-in-Tunisia-A-Factor-to-be-Included-in-Strategies-Addressing-Gender-Based-Violence

La Tunisie, seul pays arabe à instaurer l’égalité entre citoyens et citoyennes

Manifestation en Tunisie

Le 13 août, les femmes manifestent à Tunis contre le projet de loi constitutionnel consacrant la « complémentarité » entre Tunisiens et Tunisiennes
 

C’est une première dans le monde arabe. Et un soulagement pour les Tunisiennes. Lundi, la Tunisie a inscrit l’égalité entre les citoyens et les citoyennes dans sa constitution.  « C’est un grand pas en avant », veut croire Bochra Belhaj Hmida, cofondatrice de l’Association tunisienne des femmes démocrates (ATFD). L’avocate aurait bien sûr préféré une référence à « l’égalité totale entre les sexes », que réclamaient les associations féministes. Mais elle se réjouit  néanmoins. « C’est une bonne ébauche pour éradiquer la discrimination entre les sexes », renchérit cette militante.

Human Rights Watch et Amnesty International se sont montrées, elles, plus critiques. Les ONG jugent la formule « citoyens et citoyennes » trop réductrice. « La Constitution devrait préciser que les hommes et les femmes sont égaux et ont droit à la pleine égalité en droit et en fait », affirment les organisations. Elles souhaitent aussi que la non-discrimination soit élargie aux raisons « de race, de couleur, de sexe, de langue, de religion, d’opinion politique ou autre ».

C’est d’ailleurs une première dans le monde arabe où, au regard de la loi, femmes et hommes se trouvent rarement sur un pied d’égalité. La plupart des pays n’accordent pas la possibilité du divorce par consentement mutuel, la liberté de circulation, ou encore l’égalité en matière d’héritage. Depuis son indépendance et l’adoption de la Constitution de 1956, le pays fait figure d’exemple en la matière, ayant attribué le plus de droits aux femmes.

Mais, depuis le printemps arabe et l’arrivée au pouvoir du parti islamiste Ennahda, le sort des Tunisiennes restait incertain. Cette petite révolution constitutive, fruit d’un consensus entre le parti au pouvoir et les courants progressistes, a suscité d’âpres débats à l’assemblée. Ennahda a été obligé de se « plier » à la vision moderne de la Tunisie en matière de droits des femmes. Le gouvernement a donc fini par faire marche arrière sur la question de leur statut, non sans avoir tenté, en août 2013, d’inscrire la notion de « complémentarité » entre hommes et femmes. Une décision qui avait fait descendre dans la rue les Tunisiennes pendant plusieurs jours pour obtenir le recul du gouvernement. Pour l’avocate, cette volte-face est synonyme d’espoir, car « cela prouve qu’il faut continuer de militer, et ne pas baisser les bras. Les femmes ont fini par gagner. »

http://madame.lefigaro.fr/societe/tunisie-seul-pays-arabe-instaurer-legalite-entre-citoyens-citoyennes-070114-637564

Tunisia’s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami

In conversations with Karima Bennoune over the past two months, Tunisian intellectual Amel Grami shares her analysis of the political crisis in Tunisia during the rule of the Ennahda party, and the strategies needed to defeat fundamentalism.

July 8, 2013

KB: Could you describe the current situation and the biggest challenges for women activists and secularists now?

AG: The main subject is civil liberties and how to survive the current wave of violence against women. There is tension vis-à-vis women in terms of their clothes, their life-style, etc.  For example, swimming in Ramadan causes problems now for some women.  It is a new phenomenon in Tunisia – this new relationship with the body and the feeling that in the public sphere you are not free. There are others who are using violence in order to “correct” the behavior of women. It is not possible any more for women activists to travel around the country on their own at night or to go to rural areas, especially to some areas where fundamentalists impose their rule, such as rural areas near Bizerte where there is reported to be Salafist controlled territory or “Imara Salafya”.  Tunisia is not the same as it was two years ago. We do not have the same freedom of movement.

Amel Grami

Amel Grami in Tunis, July 2013: “Color is a form of resistance.”
Photo by Karima Bennoune.

Read more: http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amel-grami-karima-bennoune/tunisias-fight-against-fundamentalism-interview-with-amel-grami?utm_source=50.50+list&utm_campaign=1a1e81e738-RSS_5050_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_89d6c8b9eb-1a1e81e738-407822177

Karima Bennoune carried out this interview while in Tunisia doing follow up research to her book, “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.”

This article was first published in October.  It is republished as part of 50.50’s series of articles during 16 Days: activism against gender violence

Women’s human security rights in the Arab world: on nobody’s agenda

Security breakdown has wreaked havoc with women’s lives in Arab transition countries, but it is hardly recognized in international debates on gender based violence, says Mariz Tadros

Four children holding hands walking away from the camera, wearing T-shirts with Arabic text on.

The T-shirts read: human dignity, bread, social justice and freedom. Photo: Nefssi

This is the first of two articles by Mariz Tadros discussing the disjunctures between the current international discourse on gender based violence and women’s realities on the ground in ‘Arab transition’ contexts.

Sometime past midnight in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday the 27th November, activists reported that a security vehicle dumped a group of women in the middle of the desert in Egypt. Security officers had arrested them the day before for protesting against the proposed protest law, which they believed would infringe on citizens’ freedom of expression. Some of the women arrested were also activists in anti-sexual harassment groups such as Fouada Watch and Opantish. Captured footage showing how roughly they were treated seemed déjà vu of the repressive security apparatus handling of dissent during Mubarak’s and Morsi’s authoritarian regimes. 

However, what is striking is that the arrests of the protestors did not stir the mass mobilization of the citizenry to rise in anger, raising the troubling question of why not?

The truth of the matter is that almost three years of having suffered from the withdrawal of the security apparatus from assuming their role in protecting citizens, most Egyptians now yearn more than anything for an end to what is locally referred to as al infelat al amny –  security breakdown/laxity. Human security –  the idea of putting the security apparatus in the service of people’s needs for safety and protection, rather than the security interests of a ruling regime or the interests of international actors, has never had a chance to thrive in Egypt –  or in any other country that has experienced revolts.

 

Read more: http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/women%E2%80%99s-human-security-rights-in-arab-world-on-nobodys-agenda?utm_source=50.50+list&utm_campaign=1a1e81e738-RSS_5050_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_89d6c8b9eb-1a1e81e738-407822177