Creating new perspectives since 2009

HRW: Algeria endangering lives of women

April 25, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Image of Algerian women on 26 June 2014 [Solidarity Center/Flickr]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the number of domestic violence cases in Algeria and the “lack of diligence” of police investigations and the non-enforcement of sentences against the perpetrators of the assaults.

In a report presented by Ahmed Benchemsi, director of communication and advocacy for the MENA region for HRW, the NGO highlighted the “social obstacles that include pressures to preserve the family from all stigma and shame for the family in case the woman leaves home or reports abuse.”

Read: Women kept out of sight in Algeria elections

The lack of shelters for women fleeing violence was also noted by the NGO and “the absence of measures to prevent violence, such as the use of curricula to modify discriminatory social and cultural behaviour.”

Services for victims of domestic violence, including shelter, psychosocial care and facilitation of access to justice, are almost entirely provided by NGOs, most of who are not supported by the state.

HRW described the amendments made to the Criminal Code in 2015 as a “significant advance” but the harsher sentences remain insufficient. Among other shortcomings was the fact that the 2015 law “offers the possibility for the aggressor to escape punishment or to benefit from a reduction of sentence if the victim forgives him. This increases the vulnerability of the victim to social pressures…”

Algeria should ensure that its legislation on domestic violence is complete and in line with international standards. Without such measures, Algeria will continue to endanger the safety and lives of women and girls.

Survivors of domestic violence, representatives of NGOs and service providers for survivors, including lawyers and psychologists, were interviewed by HRW for the report.

In 2016, the police recorded more than 4,000 cases of domestic violence against women. These figures represent only the tip of the iceberg as the majority of victims do not come forward and report the crimes.


    Cases of domestic violence against women were recorded by the police in 2016

Among those interviewed was mother of two, Selwa, 39, who was beaten by her husband for years. In September 2011, her husband undressed her and hung her from a ceiling beam to beat her with a broom before cutting at her chest with scissors. Selwa was then rescued by her sister-in-law, who helped her escape and file a complaint against her husband. The complaint however remained unanswered.

Thanks to the legal aid of the NGO that manages the home in which she has taken refuge, another complaint has been lodged with the public prosecutor. This second complaint resulted in the conviction of her husband and a payment of a fine and a six months suspended prison sentence.

HRW denounced “the disdainful attitude of the police to the victims,” very often encouraged to abandon the prosecution and forgive the perpetrator instead. The NGO concluded with recommendations such as amending Law No. 15-19, adopting comprehensive legislation fully which incriminates domestic violence, establishing a national database on all forms of violence against women and a protocol for Police intervention.