What’s new in Tunisia? Nothing much. Two police officers accused of raping a young woman have accused the young woman of “indecency” and a judge has hauled her into court to respond to the accusation.
Leading human rights, feminist groups and other prominent members of civil society have formed a committee evening to co-ordinate a campaign in support of the woman, including the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women and the Tunisian League of Human Rights.
Faïza Skandrani, the head of the Equality and Parity organisation, told Al Jazeera that the case was an important one for two reasons: it marked the first time a woman allegedly raped by the police had taken the case to court, and it was the first time the authorities were trying to publicly shame a woman into dropping such charges.
“The investigating judge is turning her from the victim to the accused, to help the police officers get away with it,” she said. “I’ve heard about similar cases in Pakistan, but this is a first in Tunisia. Next they will be charging her with prostitution.”
It’s classic, isn’t it. Women are “indecent” simply by existing, so there’s no such thing as rape, there’s only women sucking in men with their indecency between the legs. If the woman is there to be raped, then it’s her fault by definition, even if the man had to break down a couple of walls to get at her. If she is not sealed up beyond possible access then she’s indecent and a sucker-in of men. Stone her.
Activists see the case as an important one because of the symbolism in the wider cultural battles between those who want Tunisia to maintain its position as one of the most progressive countries in the Arab world, and religious conservatives.
“This is a drop in the ocean of the problems we’ve been fighting,” Skandrani said. “Each time we close one door, they open another.”
“The revolution was about freedom and democracy, not about undermining women’s rights,” she said. “They want to build a society where women can be used and treated like objects and where the man is always right.”
Bad luck to them.