The Algerian constitution states that all citizens are created equal. There should not be discrimination based on “birth, race, sex, opinion or any other personal or social condition or circumstance.” This sounds perfect until you realize that a “family code” was put into place in the 1980s that would treat women as minors under the legal guardianship of their husbands and fathers. Algeria has made some changes to the code since its implementation. These changes are a result of years of activism and pressure on the government to allow women more rights and to be seen as equals. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Algeria.
5 Facts About Women’s Right in Algeria
- There is more equality for women in the job market. In February 2016, the government introduced an article that would make the state work to attain equality in the job market. The article “encourages the promotion of women to positions of responsibility in public institutions and in business.” There are no legal restrictions on the professions women choose. However, according to the family code, the husband can revoke the wife’s career path if he does not agree with it. Some men would prefer women to choose more feminine career paths, such as healthcare and education.
- Some forms of domestic violence are criminalized. The government adopted amendments to the family code in December 2015 that can protect women in the case of domestic violence. Assault on a spouse or former spouse can result in 20 years of imprisonment. Assaults resulting in death can have a consequence of life in prison. The amendment also criminalized sexual harassment in public spaces. This is a major win for women considering their violent and traumatic past. During Algeria’s civil war in the 90s, known as the Black Decade, women were targets of extremists. Teachers, businesswomen, drivers and women engaged in the public sphere were especially targeted. These women would often get raped, murdered or disappear during that time. Having these amendments does not take away the brutal past, but it certainly is a step in the right direction.
- Women have more access to divorce and child custody. Despite new laws that would allow women more access to divorce and child custody, women still find it hard to divorce their husbands. Women need approval from the courts and have to meet certain criteria before initiating the divorce, whereas men do not need justification. On top of needing men to approve the divorce, women also risk losing their property and assets if they decide to end their marriage.
- Many organizations are fighting for women’s rights in Algeria. There are 30 organizations in Algeria fighting women’s oppression. These organizations are a part of a network created by the Civil Society Collective for a Democratic Transition which was a result of protests for women’s rights in 2019. Many of these organizations are led by women. One organization, in particular, Djazairouna, has been around since the mid-90s. This organization helped families affected by the Black Decade. They provided moral, psychological and legal assistance to the victims. They would also attend their funerals. Traditionally, only men were allowed to attend funerals but during the Black Decade, women started going as an act of protest. They would state that it was not the victim’s fault they were caught in the crossfire but the extremists’ fault. Since the Black Decade, Djazairouna continued to pursue justice for the victims’ families.
- Women have an equal opportunity to hold public office. Many of the organizations fighting for women’s rights in Algeria have been behind major legislation that would give women equality and greater political representation. In 2012, about 30% of seats in the government’s cabinet were held by women, and again in 2014. Women also make up half of the judges, 44% of magistrates and 66% of justice professionals in lower courts.
Algeria has made significant progress in the realm of women’s rights. However, as the protests in 2019 have proven, the country still has room for improvement to allow women to be seen and treated as equals.