Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief
Last Modified: 00:30 AM EDT, 5 October 2012
In an unconscionable twist of fate, a young girl who had been raped and reported the assault to the authorities, was subsequently ordered to marry her rapist. Facing such an untenable situation the girl took her own life.
On Tuesday, 02 October 2012, in the neighboring North African country Tunisia, hundreds of women gathered in the capital city, Tunis, to protest the trial of a young woman who had been charged with indecent exposure after she was raped by two Tunisian policeman.
Her ordeal began last month when she and her fiancé were driving in the city and were approached by three police officers. According to her complaint, one officer took her fiancé to the bank to extort money, while the remaining two took turns raping the her inside the car.
When the couple reported the sexual assault and extortion to the authorities, instead of launching an investigation into her complaint and possible misconduct of the policemen; the police department charged the couple with “intentional indecent behavior,” a charge that carries a term of up to six months in prison.
The audacity of the attack and the charges levied against the victim demonstrate a total lack of regard for women’s rights or fear of reprisal for any abuses. The fact that the courts upheld the police’s complaint against the woman, connotes an environment in which men can violate women with relative impunity.
According to reports, ‘it was only after the woman filed a complaint against the officers — and they were charged with rape and extortion — that the officers said they found the couple in an “immoral position” in the car.’ (Source: CNN)
The combined impact of this high-profile case is the tacit acknowledgement that female victims of physical or sexual abuse will not receive justice and in fact may themselves face prosecution.
Despite Tunisians leading the Arab Spring movement which paved the way for a renaissance of personal freedom of expression, it appears that these hard fought rights were never intended to benefit Tunisian women. In fact, last month, in another blow to women’s rights in the country, ‘the government rejected a U.N. Human Rights Council’s recommendation to abolish discrimination against women in areas such as inheritance and child custody.’
The sensational aspect of this rape case highlights a systemic environment of anti-women’s rights policies within post-Arab Spring Tunisia. From regressive family laws to charging rape victims with a crime if they have the temerity to report the assault, one has to wonder what the Tunisian fruit seller who self-immolated would feel about the outcome of his actions that sparked a freedom movement.
He and other Tunisians’ made the supreme sacrifice to achieve the dream of living in a post-President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s regime. It is disheartening to witness that the newly installed government has chosen to adopt the failed policies of the last regime to control the Tunisian citizenry and journalist through arbitrarily applied “public immorality” and “public disorder” statutes, clearly designed to silence the voices of those seeking justice.Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report