Tshegofatso Senne

Sodfa Daaji is a Tunisian-Italian feminist-abolitionist engaged in Europe and Africa. She advocates for women’s rights, and her activism focuses particularly on how culture, tradition and religion affect the achievement of women’s rights. She is also the founder and executive director of the African Legal Think Tank on Women’s Rights (ALTOWR) and the project lead for the Handbook. 

ALTOWR is a Continental Legal Institute performing research, consultancy, capacity building, provision of technical expertise and advocacy on women’s rights. The Think Tank is led by a team of volunteers and governed by a board of directors appointed to oversee their leadership, accountability and transparency. 

They are independent of government, political parties and other interest groups, and their mission is to provide space for discussion, to design and develop new concepts of quality through their analytical, constructive and evidence-based legal research into social, political and economic issues that affect the rights of women and girls in Africa.  

The focus of this project is on North Africa, but particularly Tunisia and Algeria. The title of the project is the “Comparative Handbook on Revenge Porn in Africa: Tunisia and Algeria”. The project investigates the phenomenon of non-consensual dissemination of intimate pictures and videos in the two countries of interest. The project aims to enrich knowledge of and present information on violence against women and girls (VAWG) in the digital space. 

In defining violence against women, they refer to The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which states that

Violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion of arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

  The handbook is broken down into 5 sections. The first one is the introduction, including the definition of revenge porn as well as explanation of the notion of consent and victim-blaming. This overview section is enriched with a contextual review of the Enabling Environment for Women’s Rights in the North Africa region. The second section provides an in-depth analysis of Algeria and Tunisia and assesses the similarities and differences in the political and social landscape of these two countries with a particular focus on the 2011 Tunisian Uprising and the ongoing Hirak Uprising in Algeria. Section three offers a comparative legislative framework of the two countries. The project carried out interviews and surveys, in addition to desk research. A review and analysis of these inputs comprises the handbook’s fourth section. Finally, the handbook closes with customised recommendations and a summary of key takeaways.

Although producing the Handbook was the main objective of this project, two other activities complemented its success: prior consultation with legal experts and a community webinar. The consultations with legal experts impacted positively on the production of the Handbook because feminist insights shared from the experts ensured a feminist lens throughout the Handbook development process, as well as in analysing VAWG from a structural perspective. The webinar served as an opportunity to collect feedback and impressions on the findings, as well as assess the extent to which non-consensual intimate image distribution is perceived by the general public, as well as address any questions. The conversation opened up the possibility of scaling up the investigation for an in-depth analysis of the Non-Consensual Dissemination Intimate Images and Videos in other countries of the region.

They reached out to 57 civil society representatives, 33 women and 24 men in the production of the Handbook. 

There have been great strides made to address VAWG, but the Think Tank notes that it remains unnoticed and undocumented. This is also aggravated by the social and cultural perception of VAWG, which is often dismissed and unrecognised. Harmful social norms that sustain gender-based violence include - but are not limited to - women’s sexual purity, protecting family honor over women’s safety, and men’s authority to discipline women and children. Over time, some of these harmful social norms have been eradicated by the continuous work and effort of women’s rights organisations and feminists; however, in other instances, these norms and personal beliefs are currently fueling a backlash on women’s rights with repercussions on the overall perception and tolerance of gender-based violence against women, as well as sexual violence.

The Northern Africa region remains an interesting and contradictory landscape to be investigated because despite it having been characterised by remarkable achievements especially following the “Arab Spring” uprising, it struggles to maintain stability. Adverse effects from the social and political dynamics fall unreasonably on women and girls.

This handbook is open source and can be used, replicated, read and altered by civil society organisations  and collectives, by providing further data, conducting more in-depth researches at regional, national and even at local levels to enrich the literature on a subject that currently relies on very few resources. 

This project has inevitably given us the opportunity to assess our capacities, as well as to strengthen our mission and vision through the findings and the different conversations we have had with women and feminist movements. We are profoundly grateful to the Association for Progressive Communication for believing in the scope of this Handbook and providing us the opportunity to explore a subject that needs much more awareness and investigation.