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The brutal murder of women, by beating, slaughtering or burning, and the problems of domestic violence, are increasingly at the forefront of media attention in the Maghreb countries, but protection mechanisms are still insufficient.

According to the group Feminicide Algeria, which has been monitoring these cases since 2019, “at least one woman is killed every week” in the country.

The “Stop Killing Moroccan Women” platform recorded at least 50 murders of women in 2023, compared to more than 30 in 2022, and five cases since the beginning of 2024.

In Tunisia, the situation is no less serious, as the number of murders of women increased fourfold between 2018 and 2023, reaching 25 murders compared to six cases in 2018, according to NGOs such as “Aswat Nisa” and “Menara.”

During Ramadan in the spring of 2023, a 23-year-old Algerian woman was killed by her husband in Constantine (eastern Algeria), in a brutal murder told to Agence France-Presse by the victim’s brother.

“Half an hour before breakfast, my sister’s husband saw his wife taking a picture of herself with her phone while she was frying bourak (an Algerian appetizer), so he got so angry that he poured oil on her face and then slaughtered her,” said Imad, a pseudonym.

The victim had been married for five years and had three children.

According to the victim’s brother, the killer was sentenced to only 10 years in prison because his lawyer submitted a medical file alleging that his client was suffering from a nervous breakdown, a sentence the family appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Farida (a pseudonym), 45, survived an attempt to strangle her by her husband in Algeria.

“My married life was very miserable, with beatings and death threats. Once he choked me until I fell, and even used a rope,” said the divorced journalist and mother of four.

Algerian sociologist Yamina Rahou told AFP that “the phenomenon of killing women is not new, but it has become more prominent with the emergence of social media.”

Non-governmental organizations and women’s associations in the Maghreb countries are trying to raise public awareness of these tragedies, considering that the crimes that reach the media are only the tip of the iceberg.

“It is huge in relation to the population and it is a dangerous phenomenon,” Karima Brini, president of the Women and Citizenship Association, told AFP regarding the number of femicides recorded in Tunisia in 2023.

The latest attempted murder of a woman took place last weekend in Gafsa, southern Tunisia, where a husband poured gasoline on his wife and set her on fire over recurring family disputes. She was taken to hospital, while her husband is still at large, according to judicial sources.

Despite the adoption of a very ambitious law in 2017 in Tunisia, Brini believes that “its implementation is not proceeding at the desired pace,” pointing to the lack of public funding for shelters and the insufficient training of “professionals (especially police and judges) in assessing risks and preventing violence.”

She also sees “a large number of cultural barriers” in Tunisia, such as stereotypes promoted by school books (“women in the kitchen, men watching TV”), and mentalities that must be changed so that these actions are not “culturally acceptable.”

The latest crime in which a woman was the victim in Algeria occurred on Monday in the state of Khenchela (east), where local media reported that a 49-year-old man stabbed his wife, 37, several times before slaughtering her, and the police arrested him.

Algeria also has a very strict legislative framework on these issues.

At least 13 death sentences have been handed down since 2019 (all commuted to life imprisonment). A 2015 law specifically punishes sexual harassment and all forms of verbal or psychological assault or violence.

Yamina Rahou recommended “educating both sexes from an early age about equality, shared responsibility and mutual respect in the family,” especially through public media.

For her, “the legal arsenal and the work of the security forces are not enough” but rather “all the resources of the state must be mobilized, with an alert system, which includes men as well.”

In Morocco, too, there has been a law since 2018 combating violence against women, but it has been criticized by feminist associations for its ineffectiveness.

Lawyer Ghazlan Mamouni explained that “judges tend to believe that these acts fall within the private sphere, so the penalties are not deterrent and this is the core of the problem.”

For her part, Camelia Chehab, founder of the Stop Femicide Morocco association, described the Moroccan legal tools in these cases as a “farce,” calling for “more realistic” legislation and training of professionals to better care for victims.

In 2023, a highly publicized murder in Morocco involved a woman’s body being dismembered and hidden in a refrigerator.

“This case is very telling because it shows that something very horrific needs to happen for journalists to care about the issue, even though all femicides are horrific,” says Camelia Al-Shahab.

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