Find the first episode of "Women on borrowed time, from abuse to femicide" at inkyfada podcast .
The case was publicised and the hashtag #her_name_is_refka_cherni spread across social media networks. This case brought the issue of domestic violence and the lack of effective legal guarantees for the protection of women who are abused back into the public arena.
On the evening of May 7th, just after her complaint had been lodged, Refka phoned Karima Brini, president of the association "Femmes et Citoyenneté" [Women and Citizenship] in Kef, seeking consultation, with the latter subsequently trying to help her as much as possible.
On May 9, 2021, the day Refka died, Karima Brini published a Facebook post in which she expressed her anger at the public authorities and their failure to provide support for the now deceased Refka.
This press release elicited numerous reactions and expressions of solidarity, and was widely shared across social media networks. People online were hoping to encourage the State to adopt stricter measures in order to fight violence against women, and Refka's story became a matter of public opinion.
Refka was not the first (and certainly will not be the last) victim of domestic violence, as the necessary changes have not been made in legislation or practice. However, the media coverage of her story at the very least ensured that she will not be forgotten or simply become a statistic, as is usually the case with similar victims.
In 2017, there was a wave of women voicing themselves around sexual violence and assault on social media networks, under the hashtag #me_too.
The Tunisian hashtag #ena_zeda [translated as “me too”], launched by an independent feminist group in 2019 to expose sexual abusers in Tunisia, also helped break the silence around violence and assault against women. As a result, victims were able to discover the many women around the world in similar situations, instilling a sense of solidarity and the courage to speak out against their
According to the National Observatory for Combating Violence against Women, the number of complaints of all types of violence has increased in recent years.
From January to October 2021, the Ministry of Family, Women, Children and Seniors (MFFES) recorded 1,225 calls reporting violence against women on its free hotline, accounting for a quarter of all calls. Out of these 25% calls, 75.5% concerned domestic violence, according to the Observatory.
Inkyfada submitted a request with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice to access information and obtain official figures on violence against women and femicide.
Between January and June 2021 (according to the Ministry of the Interior), 10,823 women were subjected to physical violence, 6,079 to verbal violence, 725 to sexual violence and 1,167 to financial violence. However, as many victims do not dare to file an official complaint, these figures cannot come close to reflecting reality.
The Ministry of the Interior does not have any official figures on femicides, and the Ministry of Justice has still not replied.
In view of the absence of any official statistics on femicides in Tunisia, inkyfada has conducted a victim count based on cases that have received media coverage, amounting to 10 for 2021.
Law 58, which was promulgated by the Tunisian Parliament in 2017 and aims to combat violence against women, does not seem to be sufficiently implemented. This law, which was finally issued as a result of a lenghty feminist struggle, presents many important penal provisions for victim protection, and remains one of the best of its kind internationally, states lawyer Hela Ben Salem.
However, "the law alone is insufficient because the fight against such violence requires cooperation and the establishment of a national strategy to ensure a culture of human rights", explains the lawyer.
"Today we see an intensification of violence. According to statistics from 2020-2021, the violence has increased sevenfold. The increasing number of homicides against women pushes us to ring the alarm bell regarding the application of the protective measures of law 58", she adds.
Hela Ben Salem insists on the importance of implementing these protective procedures that are theoretically available to victims, stating: "this responsibility falls on the family courts, as well as to the public prosecutor's office and the judicial police officers who receive victims wishing to lodge a complaint, and who must provide them with all the protective measures according to the type of violence endured by them and their children."
According to this lawyer, it is essential to educate judges on Law 58 and the concept of patterns in violence, in order for them to detect these kinds of situations. She said that this could alleviate the pressure on victims, which sometimes leads them to withdraw their complaints, as was the case with Refka Cherni.
In the podcast series "Women on borrowed time, from abuse to femicide", inkyfada podcast has provided a platform for relatives of femicide victims and survivors of domestic violence to talk about their hardship, and escaping what sometimes seemed to be inevitable death.
The first episode of the podcast series takes a look at the case of Refka Cherni and the violence she suffered at the hands of her husband - told by one of her family members; the lawyer in charge of the case; Karima Brini; and the former head of the specialised police unit in Kef, in charge of investigating "violence against women".
Episodes two and three of the podcast detail the stories of two survivors who managed to escape certain death. In the second episode, Amira describes the violence she endured at the hands of her husband during their 16-years of marriage, the day she decided to take her children and flee, and the way the justice system dealt with her case. In the third episode, Souad's children recount the daily violence they and their mother suffered at the hands of their father. One day, when her husband was about to rape his daughter for the eleventh time, Souad killed her husband while defending her child, and was subsequently sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The latest episode of this series brings experts from various fields together to discuss the issue of gender-based violence, the causes, consequences, and ultimately the solutions and means that are available to address it.
The aim of this podcast series is to shed light on the experiences and stories of these women who are victims of violence, some of which resulted in premature death, while others managed to escape. It invites everyone to understand that femicide is not isolated incidents, but the tragic consequence of systematic domination and abuse, exercised by men and endorsed by the structure of a patriarchal society.
Listen to episode 1 of the series "Women on borrowed time, from abuse to femicide" on inkyfada podcast .
If you are a victim of violence and are seeking help, you can call the free hotline provided by the Ministry of Women's Affairs: 80 10 10 30.