For this article I chose to focus on women’s’ condition in Algeria. It is considered one of the two most progressive countries in Maghreb (with Tunisia) when speaking of women’s rights. A law, which consisted of a modification of the penal Code, was adopted on December 2015. This adoption was a victory as it stipulates the principle of non-discrimination based on sex and criminalized violence committed against women.
Verbal and psychological harassments are also criminalized. The sanctions (bills, imprisonment) are higher and the burden of sentences is increased. A woman can also legally claim her salary. It is the first time that the economical violence is sanctioned.
But this improvement still has to be tempered. First, the text has a clause of ‘pardon’, which means that the legal proceeding of a man can be stopped at any time if the woman forgives him. We can easily guess that the family can in this case put pressure on women for withdrawing the complaint, which can lead to terrible cases. Associations denounce a lack of application of the law, and deplore that a lot of improvements have still to be made for women. The death of a 34 year-old woman, Amira Merabet, who was burned alive when she was going to work on the 29th August 2016 is a terribly shocking fact. The violence has not stopped against women and a strict application of the law is necessary. Indeed if progressive forces and associations are making themselves heard we cannot hide the fact that there is also a lot of conservatism in the Algerian society, some patriarchal and reactionary principles that have to be fought against.
Discrimination against women is far from having stopped. The housing problem in Algeria is an issue since the independence. It is even worse for women. A single woman can hardly, if not impossibly, find a place to live if she wants to live on her own or in a flat share. There are a growing number of single women in Algeria (11 million of women are single, which means that more than half of Algerian women are unmarried according to the National Office of Statistics in Algeria). Still Algerian society is, due to religion and customs, not tolerant towards singlehood and it is even worse when it comes to women’s singlehood.
One of the main obstacles for women to achieve completely full rights is the Family Code. It was adopted in 1984, and is dyed with Sharia’s’ principles. Some modifications have been made in 2005 that improved women’s access to divorce and child custody but an adult woman still requires a male guardian to conclude her marriage contract, a clause not required for men. Also, a man can divorce unilaterally, while a woman must apply for the courts.
It is interesting to underline that this disposition of modification of the Family Code was enacted by presidential ordinance in order to avoid a political deadlock at the assembly. This shows that the practices and mentalities, at least of the people in power, need to be changed.