Target: Moncef Marzouki, Interim President of Tunisia
Goal: Fix a legal loophole that allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their underage victims
Although Tunisia’s new constitution maintains that it is committed to women’s and human rights, it also includes a controversial exception that violates the most basic standards of human rights and safety. Sign the petition and urge Tunisian lawmakers to close a loophole that allows rapists to marry their underage victims.
The law in question, 227 bis, reflects a societal trend–not limited to Tunisia–that sees a woman’s value as being inherently linked to her virginity. The law states that if a victim is under eighteen, her attacker can gain immunity from prosecution by marrying her. Many women face ostracism and ridicule when they lose their virginity outside of marriage, either through rape or consensual sex, and the law seeks to “amend” this issue by offering an out for families with “impure” daughters.
However, the law only serves to perpetuate the wrongs committed against the survivor of the rape. It not only denies support to the victim, but also condemns her to a lifetime of repeated trauma and isolation. Furthermore, it rewards rapists for their crimes and acts as a bizarre (and codified) encouragement of rape: if a girl or her family will not consent to a marriage, rape will force their hand.
Rape is a horribly violent crime that should not be ignored, much less rewarded, under any circumstances. The current law heaps further injustices upon those who have been wronged–the girl and her family–while it gives rapists exactly what they want. To break the cycle of violence, it is imperative that the blame be placed squarely on the shoulders of rapists, not their victims, and that they be punished accordingly. Sign the petition and urge Tunisian leaders to amend the law to reflect a more equal, humane, and just legal system.
Dear Interim President Marzouki,
I am writing to express my concern and disgust over the continued presence of 227 bis in the Tunisian Penal Code. The law, which allows rapists to escape prosecution for their crimes if they marry their victims, perpetuates a cycle of violence and misogyny and rewards criminals for their horrible behavior. I urge you to work with other lawmakers to ensure that this controversial, inhumane, and unjust law is removed from the books as quickly as possible.
Rape is an incredibly traumatic experience that can lead to lasting psychological and emotional distress for those who survive it. Victims of rape also face ostracism and ridicule. The very idea that a modern country would legally condemn a woman to live a lifetime with her attacker is bizarre, disgusting, and counterproductive. It rewards criminals for breaking the law and acts as a codified encouragement of rape: if a rapist knows he will not be punished for his actions, what is his motivation not to rape? Essentially the law incentivizes violence against young women.
I urge you to follow in the footsteps of countries like Morocco, which closed a similar loophole in its penal code earlier this year. Tunisia is a modern nation and it must eschew archaic laws like this one. Please stand alongside the women of Tunisia–not their rapists.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Hanna- via Flickr