Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1342

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1342

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1343

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1343

Notice: Undefined index: et_template in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1344

ALGERIA: War against women/ Femicide cases denounced

ALGERIA: War against women

By Dalia Ghanem


Middle East Institute (08.02.2021) – https://bit.ly/3fd4Wz1 – On Jan. 26, an Algerian journalist from the public channel TV4 Tamazight, Tinhinane Laceb, was murdered by her husband. Just two days earlier, on Jan. 24, Warda Hafedh, a 45-year-old mother of five, was murdered by her spouse. Warda was hit in the head three times with a hammer and stabbed in the heart five times. The attack took place in front of her six- year-old daughter.


Tinhinane and Warda are but two victims among many. Last October, the story of Chaïma, a 19-year-old who was kidnapped, raped, beaten, and burned alive in the small town of Thénia, made headlines. The poignant video of Chaïma’s mother calling on President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to order the death penalty against her daughter’s killer gave rise to a debate on social media over its use. The death penalty is still on the books in Algeria but has been suspended since 1993 following a moratorium. According to local media, President Tebboune called for the application of a “maximum sentence without the possibility of relief or pardon.”


Chaïma’s murder and other recent killings have sparked outrage across Algeria. Many Algerians have expressed their anger on social media over this dangerous trend of violence against women, with the hashtag #WeLostOneOfUs trending on Twitter. In Algiers, Béjaïa, Constantine, and Oran, hundreds of women defied pandemic lockdown restrictions to protest and voice their anger over the increase in femicides in the country and the state’s inertia.


Femicide and other gender-based violence are turning into a real public-health crisis. There are no comprehensive statistics available on gender-based violence and femicide in Algeria; however, figures published annually by the Directorate General of National Security (DGSN) and the Gendarmerie are worrying as they represent only the tip of the iceberg. Recent statistics from the police, as reported by Algerian media, indicate that more than 7,000 cases of violence against women were recorded in 2018. As for femicide, according to the only available resource, “feminicides-dz,” a website created by two feminist activists tracking the phenomenon and aimed at making the victims’ faces and stories known, 75 women from all backgrounds and ages (up to 80 years old) died at the hands of their intimate partners, fathers, brothers, brothers-in-law, sons, or strangers in 2019, and another 54 in 2020.


While the Algerian state has implemented long-overdue legal and institutional reforms to promote and protect women’s rights since 2014, such measures have been unable to protect women against violence in general and domestic violence in particular. Corporal punishment of women by their husbands or male relatives is widespread and accepted in society as a method of discipline. In addition, stigmatization and hostility from society and police enforcement toward women who complain about or report domestic violence are also severe obstacles to women’s protection as well. Successive governments have failed on two fronts: on the one hand, in making a comprehensive law to enhance women’s protection and prevent domestic violence, and on the other, to provide survivors and their children with adequate support services.



The laws — and their flaws


To better protect women, in 2015 the Algerian legislature put in place a law criminalizing sexual harassment, expanding its scope, and strengthening penalties for it. The law also amended the penal code to criminalize domestic violence. For the first time in Algeria, following the implementation of the 2015 law, violence within the family can be prosecuted under Articles 264 to 276 of the penal code, which prescribe penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment. This law made assaulting a spouse punishable by up to 20 years in prison for injuries and a life sentence for injuries resulting in death (Article 266 bis). However, for several reasons, this law fails to fully protect women and end violence against them.


First, the law applies only to spouses and ex-spouses living in the same or separate residences, but does not apply to relatives, unmarried couples, or other members of the household. Provisions on assault and psychological or economic violence do not apply to an individual in intimate non-marital relationships or to family members or members of the same household.


Second, in Article 264, there is a penalty of one to five years in prison and a fine for violent acts that lead to illness or an incapacity to work for more than 15 days. However, a medical certificate is required to prove this, hindering survivors’ access to justice and, by extension, to their perpetrators’ prosecution. In addition, violent acts that do not incapacitate the victim for more than 15 days are considered misdemeanors, except if premeditated (i.e., an ambush) or if a weapon is used (Article 266).


Third, the law does not forbid mediation and conciliation; moreover, a perpetrator may even receive a reduced sentence or avoid punishment altogether if pardoned by a spouse (n° 15-19, 2015: Article 266 bis, 266 bis 1, 330 bis). There is often considerable social and family pressure on the victim to pardon her attacker and this may dissuade her from seeking court remedies in the future. Another obstacle women encounter besides social pressure is lousy treatment by the police, who are frequently dismissive, discourage them from filing complaints, and lack due diligence and follow-up when carrying out an investigation (if there is one).


In addition, there is no provision for a protective order, known as a restraining order, to protect the victim and improve the prosecution of her case. There are also no provisions preventing an alleged abuser from calling the victim or requiring them to remain a certain distance away from her or even to move out of a shared residence. As a result, the victim can be subject to harassment in the best case and retaliation in the worst.


According to emailed comments from Nadia Aït Zai, a feminist activist and founder of the Center for Information and Documentation on the Rights of Children and Women (CIDDEF), “There is indeed a law now on domestic violence, but this is not enough. We have been asking for protection mechanisms, protective orders, as well as a special counter dedicated to the victims from the moment they arrive at the police station until their departure, and even the possibility to place them [in a shelter] immediately if need be.”


Fourth, the penal code recognizes “crime of passion,” and Article 279 provides that a person who kills or injures their spouse benefits from mitigating circumstances if their spouse was caught in the act of adultery.


Finally, while women can divorce their husbands if they are violent toward them, marital rape is not recognized. The law on domestic violence does not mention it, even though the figures are alarming. A national survey published in 2005 reported that 10.9% of Algerian women interviewed said they had been subjected to forced sexual intercourse by their intimate partners. This number went up to 14% in a 2013 study conducted by the Balsam network, a national network of listening centers for women victims of violence.


These legal shortcomings should be addressed urgently by the Parliament through further legislation.



Give me shelter


Institutional mechanisms like the Ministry for National Solidarity, Family, and the Status of Women and the National Council for the Family and Women are examples that illustrate the state’s commitment to fulfilling its due diligence obligations in the areas of gender equality and non-discrimination. Under the ministry’s coordination, in 2007 Algeria launched the National Strategy on Combating Violence Against Women. The strategy called for creating special units to help survivors of violence find longer-term shelters — without covering the actual establishment of these shelters. At present, there are two national state-run shelters (Bousmail and Mostaganem) and five temporary accommodation centers (Algiers, Constantine, Oran, Skikda, and Ouargla).


As there is no budget explicitly devoted to dealing with gender-based violence, the viability and accessibility of shelters and accommodation centers for women victims of violence remain a major challenge. This seems to be an issue for the broader MENA region as well, as the total number of shelters in the Arab states does not exceed 50. In Algeria, this translates into limited and inadequate services such as legal aid, health assistance, psycho-social support, and above all shelters. These services are nearly all provided by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), most of which receive no state support.


Shelters and accommodation centers lack resources, funds, and space. For instance, in 2017, several centers had to turn women away due to lack of space. Many women have also been turned away because they did not meet the criteria of shelters or accommodation centers or because there were restrictions on under-age children who accompanied them. Moreover, women victims of emotional abuse are not accepted as these institutions recognize only certain forms of violence.


In addition, many shelters and centers lack employees and have to rely heavily on volunteers due to their limited funds. There are few professionals in these shelters and the lack of a code of conduct on how to interact and work with survivors makes the volunteers’ job harder. However, these centers do have reintegration officers to support women after their stay for up to two years, which is critical for survivors.


Half of the centers in Algeria include reconciliation services, calling into question the principles of women’s safety, security, and confidentiality. Reconciliation can be extremely dangerous and put women at significant risk. The reconciliation approach does not consider the imbalance of power between the survivor and the perpetrator, or the familial and social pressure on women to safeguard the family at any cost.



Patriarchy and the pandemic


Femicide is a global issue that cuts across borders, cultures, religions, classes, and ages. However, in the “belt of classic patriarchy” of which the MENA region is part, rates of sexual and gender-based violence are continuing to rise, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Algeria is no exception in this regard. Data from the DGSN shows an increase in physical violence (71%) and an upsurge in femicides. In the first two months of 2020, 6 women were killed by their husbands — and a further 19 from March to October.


While the Algerian state, like many others in the region, debates human security and the protection of the most vulnerable, it is this very same state that put women and children at risk. The state is implicated in women’s oppression and their reduction to objects of masculine social control. Through this ideological construct, structural and direct violence against women is justified. The gendering of the private sphere is what makes home a realm outside of the state’s influence and under the regulation of the man. The latter is granted control over the defense of the house’s sanctity and the women’s body. As long as this patriarchal view prevails within Algeria’s state and society, it will cast shame and stigma on women victims of violence, Algerian women will continue to be killed, and their perpetrators praised.


Dr. Dalia Ghanem is a resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, where her work examines political and extremist violence, radicalization, Islamism, and jihadism with an emphasis on Algeria. The opinions expressed in this piece are her own.



Further reading about women’s rights on HRWF website 


Photo credits: Ryad Kramdi/AFP via Getty Images

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1342

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1342

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1343

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1343

Notice: Undefined index: et_template in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1344

SPAIN: Spanish govt endorses clearer, tougher law on sexual consent

Spanish govt endorses clearer, tougher law on sexual consent

Spain’s government has approved sexual consent legislation that aims to crack down on sexual violence and harassment by codifying offenses and adopting new punishments


ABC News (06.07.2021) – https://abcn.ws/2TcjgQA – Spain’s government on Tuesday approved sexual consent legislation that aims to crack down on sexual violence and harassment by codifying offenses and adopting new punishments.


The bill endorsed at a Cabinet meeting says: “Consent is recognized only when a person has freely demonstrated it through actions which, in the context of the circumstances of the case, clearly express the person’s will.”


The legislation, popularly known as the “Only yes means yes” law, now goes to parliament for a debate and vote, probably in September.


Government spokesperson María Jesús Montero said the proposed law is “a decisive step forward” in the protection of women, which “makes us, without doubt, better as a society.”


“We have to transform our sexual culture, placing women’s consent at the center of how we see things,” Montero said during a news conference.


The changes contained in the bill follow outcries in recent years over court decisions in sex crime cases.


In 2018, five men were sentenced to nine years in prison each for the lesser crime of sexual abuse in a case that activists saw as a gang rape during the 2016 running of the bulls festival in Pamplona. “It’s not abuse, it’s rape!” protesters shouted at the time.


Spain’s Supreme Court increased the men’s sentences to 15 years after prosecutors appealed.


Spanish law punishes non-consensual sex but it is not clearly codified and relies on evidence of violence or intimidation to decide whether it a criminal act occurred and if so, the degree of punishment.


The government hopes the bill will remove the need for victims to prove they resisted or were subjected to violence. Any non-consensual sex will be regarded as aggression under the proposal. It sets out punishments that include prison terms of up to 15 years.


The bill also addresses for the first time sexual harassment in the street, identifying it as a minor offense that can be prosecuted on the evidence of the offended person. Convictions would be punishable by voluntary work and fines.


The legislation also would establish nationwide crisis centers for women that are open 24 hours a day year-round.


Women’s rights have been a political banner for Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government, which has a mostly female Cabinet.



Photo credits: REUTERS/Susana Vera

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1342

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1342

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1343

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1343

Notice: Undefined index: et_template in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1344

UNITED KINGDOM/ WORLD: Report on Gender and Freedom of Religion or Belief

Section Gender and FORB of the Commentary on the Current State of International Freedom of Religion or Belief (2020)



APPG (01.03.2021) – Stakeholders of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief have reported concerns at the intersection between freedom of religion or belief and gender in several countries.


This section offers a precis of some of the key issues of concern and several salient examples.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has had catastrophic consequences for vulnerable populations around the globe. At the intersection of gender and FoRB is a compounding of vulnerabilities which in ‘normal’ times is systematically exploited by antagonists of FoRB.29 This produces a global pattern of abuse including ‘forced marriage’ and ‘sexual assault’ as the two most common tactics used against Christian women in 50 countries.30

COVID-19 restrictions have further exacerbated these complex vulnerabilities whilst simultaneously increasing impunity for aggressors. Governments, civil society actors and fragile national infrastructures struggle to deliver a COVID-19 response resulting in greater impunity for perpetrators of gender-specific religious persecution.

Gender-based violence targeting minorities merely blends in with the increased domestic violence or honour killings. Many of these abuses and violations are hidden and under-reported or, at worst, known and yet dismissed in pandemic times. A senior leader in India has stated they have lost significant ground in protecting religious minority women against gender-based violence (GBV) as there has been a significant increase in targeted trafficking of vulnerable communities facing economic hardship and lack of food security due to lockdowns.

A report published last year by The Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development (CREID) stated, “The evidence gathered suggests that across contexts and religions, there is a pattern of girls and women being targeted for sexual grooming, not only out of sexual predation, but a wider political project to hurt the religious minority and create a religiously homogenous society.”31

Country content:

In India, Dalit women experience double marginalisation due to their gender and caste. In October 2020, the BBC reported on a Dalit woman who was gang-raped in Uttar Pradesh.32 The situation in India is a microcosm representative of other regions. FoRB violations here have been exacerbated during COVID-19. Furthermore, evidence suggests that government restrictions and violence are gender specific.


In Nepal, some women and girls convert to Christianity. However, it is dangerous for them to reveal their faith, so they quietly or secretly take part in church services. When known, they are discriminated against by their peers, socially ostracized and severely beaten by family members. Immediate family of ‘convert’ Christians may lock them up. After isolation, they are often deprived of basic survival needs, educational support, parental possessions and basic legal rights. Physical violence comes gradually after emotional and mental torture.33

In some rural areas, Christians are socially boycotted and are not allowed to use community resources. In one instance, the Buddhists living in a post-earthquake IDP camp did not allow Christians to share water from the same supply system, and two separate supplies had to be installed. As it is women who use community resources more often than men, this denial of resources affects them more.34

In Malaysia, legal rights of women and girls are undermined by provisions that make exceptions for sharia.

Civil society organizations stated in a Feb 2018 CEDAW report “Muslim women now enjoy far less rights in marriage, divorce, guardianship of their children and inheritance than their non-Muslim counterparts.” It also stated: “Other areas of gross discrimination against women under the Islamic Family Laws include divorce, polygamy and child marriage.”35

These laws open avenues of vulnerability for female converts from Islam to Christianity, the most prevalent being the threat of rape and/or forced marriage to a Muslim. The minimum legal age for marriage in the Islamic family laws (16 for female) can be lowered with the consent of a sharia judge. This law increases the vulnerability of girls who convert to Christianity. The federal government tried to act against child marriages but encountered the bitter resistance of conservative Muslim federal states. In some cases, young Christian women are abducted, never to be heard of again. This is an effective tactic because once they are ‘registered’ as Muslims there is no mechanism for reversing this, even in the event of divorce. Additionally, all children born because of the so-called “marriage” are also legally considered Muslim. A small number of converts are thought to have fled or gone into hiding to avoid this kind of religiously motivated family retribution.

In Iraq, some 2,800 Yazidi women are still missing and both Yazidis and Christians are subject to regular violence and often blamed for the spread of COVID-19.

Concerns were raised by minority faith groups in August 2019 that proposals to include four Islamic clerics among the Federal Supreme Court’s 13 members could mean that sharia would always take precedence.

Opponents claimed it would end attempts to overturn legislation such as that which prevents Christian men from marrying Muslim women without converting to Islam.

Iraqi women are guaranteed equal rights in the Iraqi Provisional Constitution, ensuring their right to vote, run for political office, own property, and for girls to attend schools.36

However, there are still existing provisions that discriminate against women in the Iraqi Constitution, the Personal Status Law, and the Penal Code. There has not been significant progress in this since the launch of the Iraqi National Action Plan (INAP) for Women, Peace and Security (WPS) to implement the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (1325) on Women, Peace and Security in 2014. While this was a promise of enabling women’s participation and protection in the processes of conflict resolution and peacebuilding in Iraq37 there has been little progress in a country experiencing continued economic instability, popular protests, and security problems. While the constitution requires 25 per cent of MPs to be women, they remain side-lined from making a positive contribution to peace and security initiatives and reconciliation efforts.

The reality for Iraqi women is that the impact of war and sectarian conflict has left many as widows, who can quickly fall victim to poverty.

The impact of freedom of religion and belief violations has further disempowered women from religious minorities. The Daesh conflict, early marriage, exclusion from school, domestic violence, and lack of knowledge of their social and legal rights means that their interests are unrepresented, particularly in the Nineveh Plains area of northern Iraq, which lacks a security framework and federal government commitment to lasting change. Representation continues to be made for a concerted effort to empower Iraqi religious and ethnic minorities, particularly women, through local civic representatives.38 For Iraqi women from religious minorities, it is also virtually impossible for them to secure jobs in the public sector or even in the private sector outside their own communities as they do not have full citizenship rights. The combination of a lack of legal rights, opportunities for employment, violence from within their own communities and the threat of violence from militia groups, and now the COVID-19 pandemic, means that some minorities may leave Iraq permanently,39 pushing Iraq into further economic destabilisation and its religious minorities into extinction.40

Women are particularly vulnerable within these destabilising circumstances.

A report by Open Doors USA makes the point that there are gendered differences in how men and women in religious minority communities face pressures at the intersection of gender and religious identity.41 It observes that men in religious minorities face greater risk of physical violence, economic harassment and incarceration, women face greater risk of sexual violence, forced marriage and forced divorce.42

In Pakistan, the Hazara Shia community had to face the consequences of the provincial government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, as the community was blamed43 for the spread of the virus. Hazara women in particular bore the brunt. Most of the Hazara women who were forced to quarantine had to spend 4444 days in the quarantine camp in Quetta, Balochistan. The quarantine camps had sub-standard facilities45 such as a lack of washrooms and water. Hazara women even had to face difficulties due to the racial profiling46 of the community in the post-quarantine scenario. According to one report, some local doctors in Quetta refused47 to treat Hazara women fearing that they will spread the virus. Similarly, women from Hindu Christian faiths in Pakistan continued to face persecution such as forced conversions and forced marriages during 2020 (details in the Pakistan country section).

In Colombia, women deciding to become an active Christian can face domestic abuse and sexual abuse. A former guerrilla combatant was sexually abused by her comrades when she left the group after she converted to Christianity. Another young woman grew up as a Christian, but abandoned her faith when she met her future husband. She later returned to her faith, whereupon her husband, a judge, began to abuse her, and threatening to end the marriage and to take the children away. For a time she practiced her faith secretly, but when her husband tried to force her to sign a document saying she would never take her children to church, she refused. She lost custody of the children and was forced to give him compensation.48



28: https://www.genderandreligiousfreedom.org/
29 For further details on intersectionality of gender and FoRB see: https://www.iirf.eu/site/assets/files/116862/vol9_2016.pdf
30 https://www.opendoorsusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/GSPR-2020.pdf
31 https://www.ids.ac.uk/download.php?file=wp-content/uploads/2020/08/CREID-Briefing-Note-Ideologically- Motivated-Sexual-Grooming-MT-August-2020.pdf#ReligiousMinorities
32 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-54418513 – Hathras Case: Dalit Women are among the most oppressed in the world, 6 October 2020, BBC

33 https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/coe/nepal-4-women-arrested-for-attempting-to-forcefully-convert-people-to- christianity/ Four Women Arrested for ”Attempting to Forcefully Convert People to Christianity, 8 November 2018, World Watch Monitor
34 https://www.csw.org.uk/2019/05/01/press/4321/article.htm – Christians Accused of Proselytism Released Without Bail, 1 May 2019, Christian Solidarity Worldwide

35 https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22673&LangID=E – see CEDAW report, 19 February, 2018, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
36 https://www.hrw.org/legacy/backgrounder/wrd/iraq-women.htm
37 (http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/67347/1/WPSIraq.pdf)

38 https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/USCIRF%202020%20Annual%20Report_Final_42920.pdf.
39 https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/4c21093d-a241-416d-997a-3cc8ad3a4576
40 https://english.alarabiya.net/views/news/middle-east/2020/04/20/Iraq-and-its-minorities-face-a-new-challenge
41 https://www.opendoorsusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/GSPR-2020.pdf
42 Ibid, see pp 7-8
43 https://www.ids.ac.uk/opinions/pakistans-hazara-shia-minority-blamed-for-spread-of-COVID-19/
44 https://www.ids.ac.uk/opinions/dire-conditions-for-hazara-shia-pilgrims-during-COVID-19-quarantine-in-pakistan-six- women-share-their-experiences/
45 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/19/pakistan-coronavirus-camp-no-facilities-no-humanity
46 https://www.ids.ac.uk/opinions/pakistans-hazara-shia-minority-blamed-for-spread-of-COVID-19/
47 https://www.ids.ac.uk/opinions/go-in-disguise-to-ensure-you-receive-medical-treatment-religious-discrimination-in- pakistan/


Photo credits: Komar.de

Notice: Undefined index: et_footer_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1392

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1392

Notice: Undefined index: et_footer_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1393

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1393

Notice: Undefined index: et_template in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1394