Tunisia prohibits violence against women
Last week, Tunisia’s parliament passed a landmark law that imposes penalties for sexual harassment in public spaces, improves prosecution for domestic abuse, and eliminates legal loopholes that previously allowed rapists to escape penalties by marrying their victims. The new provision also requires training for law enforcement, judges, medical personnel, and schools on detecting and responding to violence against women, and prohibits discrimination against women in the workplace. Women’s rights advocates hailed the comprehensive law as a significant improvement and suggested that it could set a new standard for the region. Experts and rights group note, however, that the law will require adequate funding and implementation in order to be effective in reducing high rates of gender-based violence: last year alone, 60 percent of Tunisian women experienced domestic violence, and 50 percent were subject to public harassment on at least one occasion.
Jordan repeals legal exemptions for rape
On Tuesday, Jordan’s Parliament voted to repeal Article 308 of the country’s penal code, which previously allowed rapists to avoid prosecution if they married their victims. The vote came after months of deliberation in the Royal Committee, which resulted in King Abdullah’s approval of the proposal and its subsequent consideration in Parliament. Rape loopholes often originate from “honor codes” common in the Middle East and other regions of the world: more than nine countries still have marital rape laws in place, including Bahrain, Iraq, and the Philippines. Activists have fought for reform of these laws for years, condemning them as archaic and inhumane.
UK pay equity
A new UK policy requiring pay transparency, which requires all companies with at least 250 employees—roughly half the UK’s workforce—to release information about salaries and bonuses, is already having a significant effect. Although the policy will not fully go into effect until 2018, some UK companies begin to release data on compensation, sparking public outrage at persistent pay gaps. Last month, the BBC revealed a significant pay disparity, disclosing that two-thirds of the news corporation’s top-earning staff and the seven highest paid personalities are men. This week, employees at the Financial Times publicly disclosed a gender pay gap of 13 percent. Although the new law will not require companies to explain pay discrepancies or implement changes to remedy them, a ranked list will identify companies in violation of the Equal Pay Act, thereby generating public pressure to tackle pay inequality.