International Women’s Day 2016

On this International Women’s Day, EuroMed Rights gives an overview of the situation with regard to violence against women in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

From North to South, women are still facing a multitude of challenges. Mentalities, traditions, inequalities between men and women, weaknesses of institutional and legislative frameworks, lack of resources and training … the ground for violence against women remains fertile.

While some achievements can be highlighted, including for some countries the signature of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Cyprus, France, Turkey …) or the recognition by law of the principle of non-discrimination and equal rights for men and women (Tunisian constitution), too many obstacles still persist and women remain largely discriminated.

Through the testimonies of a range of women’s rights activists, EuroMed Rights and its members recall the seriousness of inequalities and violence against women and the urgency for Euro-Mediterranean states to act in favor of Women’s Rights.

Syria – Sema Nasser

Urnammu

What do you see as the one major challenge to fight against violence against women in your country?

Violence based on gender is often fed by society’s traditions and discriminatory laws. And not only do laws related to women have no element of reform, they also seem to go back to older ways in terms of women emancipation.

The unusual context of the armed conflict in Syria and the silence of the International Community about the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian authorities and the armed militia in the past 5 years are reinforcing these discriminatory policies. Women victim of violence can therefore be brought to the sole conclusion that those responsible for these acts of violence have total impunity.

In the fight to eliminate violence against women in your country, can you list one major achievement?

Thanks to the pressure of militants, Civil Society Organisations and feminist association in Syria, 2 projects to amend the personal statutes of 2010, which would legitimise all causes of discrimination and violence towards the 2 weakest links of the family chain (women and children), were aborted.

Could you share the story of one woman victim of violence?

Sanaa is a mother of 2 girls and lived in the outskirts of Homs. She took the side of the Syrian revolution in the hope to witness a wind of change towards a free and democratic Syrian in which all Syrians would have the same rights and duties.

While she was returning from a mission (bringing medicine to victims of the regime), Sanaa was arrested at a border patrol by government militaries who discovered she had medicine. She was brought to a security office in Homs where she was insulted, beaten & called a terrorist. She was later sent to Damas to be brought to justice, but once she arrived, the officer realised she was Christian and had the American nationality, so she was immediately released.

Gravely hurt, she looked for a doctor, but most of them refused to treat her when they found out she had been in a regime prison. When she returned home, Sanaa finds out that her husband took their daughters and left for the USA. Disproving her taking the side of the revolutionaries, he reported her to the Syrian authorities, who made her leave the country. Once she got to the USA, she was forbidden to contact her daughters as her husband had warned the American authorities who considered her as a terrorist.

Sanaa is now back in Beirut without her husband nor daughters, where she helps Syrian women victims of violence in her country…

Click here to read more.