Women’s Professional Participation in Tunisia’s Justice Sector focuses on Tunisia’s progress and remaining challenges towards equal professional participation within justice institutions and the barriers to equality and access to justice. Importantly, professional barriers can also inhibit the ability of women to attain substantive justice, particularly in cases of gender-based violence and crime. Based on a unique participatory methodology and featuring a Tunisian led data collection process, mixed methods were utilized to consider an array of factors influencing participation, including gender, rank, geography, education and profession.
This report is the most thorough investigation of women’s professional participation in Tunisia’s justice sector to date, shedding light on both the progress that has been made and the obstacles that persist. Women’s Professional Participation shows that Tunisia has made impressive strides in its rate of participation in recent years, building upon a strong constitutional framework and concerted political effort to attain formal gender equality. Women have increasingly gained access to judicial positions and legal training; 43% of lawyers and 41% of magistrates in the country are women, as well as 75% of law students. These figures are relatively high when compared both to other countries in the region and Tunisia’s low labor force participation rate among women. Nonetheless, the justice sector is not exempt from the disparities in substantive equality that pervade Tunisia’s labor market. Barriers that persist prevent women from reaching certain positions, particularly in the field of law. Geographical distribution continues to disadvantage women, with potential negative consequences for the country’s most marginalized women. Women’s Professional Participation also finds that there is disparity between the experiences of female magistrates and lawyers. The competitive market of law practice provides many opportunities for subjective prejudices and stereotypes to constrain women’s legal careers, including networking and recruitment. Conversely, the reform of the judiciary to emphasize neutrality and objectivity in hiring has led to a marked increase in women at higher levels.
The contrast between these two positions exposes the challenging socio-political context within Tunisia regarding the role of women. Institutions whose hiring practices are by necessity responsive to formal law and governed by objective practice, like magistracies, have more successfully integrated women into higher ranks, while those where subjective decisions are still consequential have not. Women thrive in law schools, where they outnumber their male colleagues and conduct a great amount of academic research, yet struggle to advance in private firms.
*taken from WOMEN’S PROFESSIONAL PARTICIPATION IN TUNISIA’S JUSTICE SECTOR: PATHWAYS AND OPPORTUNITIES