Fourthly, the penal code recognises "crime of passion", and Article 279 provides that a person who kills or injures their spouse benefits from mitigating circumstances if their spouse was caught in the act of adultery.

Finally, while women can divorce their husbands if they are violent toward them, marital rape is not recognised. The law on domestic violence does not mention it, even though the figures are alarming. A national survey published in 2005 reported that 10.9% of Algerian women interviewed said they had been subjected to forced sexual intercourse by their intimate partners. This number went up to 14% in a 2013 study conducted by the Balsam network, a national network of listening centres for women victims of violence.

These legal shortcomings urgently need to be addressed urgently by parliament through further legislation.

Give me shelter

Institutional mechanisms like the Ministry for National Solidarity, Family, and the Status of Women and the National Council for the Family and Women are examples that illustrate the state's commitment to fulfilling its due diligence obligations in the areas of gender equality and non-discrimination. Under the ministry's coordination, in 2007 Algeria launched the National Strategy on Combating Violence Against Women.


The strategy called for creating special units to help survivors of violence find longer-term shelters – without covering the actual establishment of these shelters. At present, there are two national state-run shelters (Bousmail and Mostaganem) and five temporary accommodation centres (Algiers, Constantine, Oran, Skikda, and Ouargla).

As there is no budget explicitly devoted to dealing with gender-based violence, the viability and accessibility of shelters and accommodation centres for women victims of violence remain a major challenge. This seems to be an issue for the broader MENA region as well, as the total number of shelters in the Arab states does not exceed fifty. In Algeria, this translates into limited and inadequate services such as legal aid, health assistance, psycho-social support, and above all shelters. These services are nearly all provided by nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), most of which receive no state support.

Shelters and accommodation centres lack resources, funds, and space. For instance, in 2017, several centres had to turn women away due to lack of space. Many women have also been turned away because they did not meet the criteria of shelters or accommodation centres or because there were restrictions on under-age children who accompanied them. Moreover, female victims of emotional abuse are not accepted as these institutions recognise only certain forms of violence.

In addition, many shelters and centres lack employees and have to rely heavily on volunteers due to their limited funds. There are few professionals in these shelters and the lack of a code of conduct on how to interact and work with survivors makes the volunteers’ job harder. However, these centres do have reintegration officers to support women after their stay for up to two years, which is critical for survivors.

Half of the centres in Algeria include reconciliation services, calling into question the principles of women's safety, security, and confidentiality. Reconciliation can be extremely dangerous and put women at significant risk. The reconciliation approach does not consider the imbalance of power between the survivor and the perpetrator, or the familial and social pressure on women to safeguard the family at any cost.


Patriarchy and the pandemic

Femicide is a global issue that cuts across borders, cultures, religions, classes, and ages. However, in the "belt of classic patriarchy" of which the MENA region is part, rates of sexual and gender-based violence are continuing to rise, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Algeria is no exception in this regard. Data from the DGSN shows an increase in physical violence (71%) and an upsurge in femicides. In the first two months of 2020, 6 women were killed by their husbands – and a further 19 from March to October.

While the Algerian state, like many others in the region, debates human security and the protection of the most vulnerable, it is this very same state that put women and children at risk. The state is implicated in women's oppression and their reduction to objects of masculine social control. Through this ideological construct, structural and direct violence against women is justified.

The gendering of the private sphere is what makes home a realm outside of the state's influence and under the regulation of the man. The latter is granted control over the defence of the house’s sanctity and the women's body.

As long as this patriarchal view prevails within Algeria’s state and society, it will cast shame and stigma on female victims of violence. Algerian women will continue to be killed, and their perpetrators praised.

Dalia Ghanem

© Middle East Institute 2021

Dalia Ghanem is a resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, where her work examines political and extremist violence, radicalisation, Islamism, and jihadism with an emphasis on Algeria.

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