On 25 November 2014, Amnesty International will mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women by launching a briefing on sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls in Algeria.
The Algerian authorities took long overdue steps to address sexual and gender-based violence earlier this year when they adopted a decree to provide financial compensation for victims of sexual violence by armed groups in the 1990s internal conflict, during which hundreds – if not thousands – of women were abducted and raped. They have also proposed draft laws, which, if adopted, would make violence against a spouse and sexual harassment in public places criminal offences.
However, Amnesty International believes the new measures do not go far enough and are symptomatic of a fragmented approach to sexual and gender-based violence.
“Although the Algerian authorities have taken some positive steps this year, their approach to the issue of sexual and gender-based violence has been at best selective, if not tokenistic,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director.
“Under current Algerian law women and girls who have survived sexual violence are not adequately protected; the definition of rape falls short of international standards and marital rape is not considered a criminal offence. A legal loophole still allows a rapist to escape prosecution by marrying his victim, if she is a minor. Comprehensive reforms are urgently needed.”
Sexual violence has marred Algeria’s recent history, with hundreds if not thousands if women being abused in the conflict during the 1990’s and attacks against women in the oil-rich town of Hassi Messaoud, first in 2001 and again in 2010. On both occasions, women living on their own were targeted at night by groups of unidentified men. Some women were raped; others were stabbed or robbed. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, the vast majority of perpetrators were never held to account.
“The authorities’ response to these major outbreaks of sexual and gender-based violence has been belated and inadequate, with no concrete measures taken in their aftermath to ensure survivors justice, reparation and rehabilitation, or to prevent the re-occurrence of sexual violence,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
“Algerian authorities must ensure that these mistakes are not repeated by implementing comprehensive reforms and amending discriminatory laws to truly protect women and girls against sexual and gender-based violence.”
Measures to ensure perpetrators of sexual violence are held to account and to strengthen survivors’ access to justice, health and support services must be introduced.
For a copy of the briefing or to arrange an interview contact: Sara Hashash MENA Press Officer +44 207 413 5511 or [email protected]