Mapping The Shelter Gap
While Tunisia’s Law-58 for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, adopted in 2017, guaranteed survivors’ right to accommodation in dedicated centers, it did not introduce any funding mechanism or strategy to ensure enough shelters would be in place to cover all needs.
As of December 2022, 10 shelters in total are operational, with a total hosting capacity of approximately 186 women. The Ministry of Women plans to support opening additional shelters to ensure at least one shelter is operational in each of Tunisia’s 24 governorates by the end of 2024. These efforts will fall short of international standards for hosting capacity. The United Nations Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women recommends one shelter place should be available for every 10,000 inhabitants. This means that Tunisia should have a hosting capacity for 1,090 women.
Tunisia should also work harder to ensure all women are informed of the existence and purpose of shelters, as Human Rights Watch found that many are unaware of shelters operating in the country. Moreover, as elsewhere in the region, the stigmatization of women living on their own or the shaming of women leaving their families can discourage survivors from seeking refuge in a shelter. At time of writing, no nationwide campaign has been implemented to normalize the resort to shelters by survivors.
Likewise, Tunisia should ensure shelters provide the assistance survivors need to effectively transition out of abusive situations. Although Law-58 provided for integration and housing services for survivors and their children, in practice, the support services provided by shelters rarely match survivors’ economic needs to help them live independently from their abusers, especially for women who have children. More means and cross-sectoral collaboration, for instance among the Ministries of Employment and of Social Affairs, are needed for shelters to transform the lives of survivors.