Tunisia is considered a pioneer of women's rights in the Arab world, and it just passed a law that endorses that title.

Tunisia's parliament passed on Wednesday a bill that protects women from violence in what the Human Rights Watch (HRW) describes as a "landmark step for women's rights."

The new law, which is expected to come into effect next year, introduces new criminal provisions and increases penalties for various forms of violence, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women.

A 2010 survey from the National Family Office found that at least 47 percent of women in Tunisia have experienced domestic violence in their lives, but things seem to be changing for the better.

The country lacked a specific law tackling domestic violence until the Law on Eliminating Violence Against Women was passed on July 26 with a unanimous vote.

"The law includes elements that are essential to prevent violence against women, protect domestic violence survivors, and prosecute abusers," HRW writes.

The new law includes the necessary measures women need to seek protection from acts of violence. 

Among other things, the law criminalizes sexual harassment in public spaces, bans the employment of children as domestic workers, and removes a controversial article that allowed rapists to marry their victims to escape punishment.

The law recognizes "physical, moral and sexual violence"

The new law's definition of violence against women includes the key elements recommended in the United Nations Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women.

The law defines violence against women as:

"Any physical, moral, sexual, or economic aggression against women based on discrimination between the two sexes and resulting in damage or physical, sexual, psychological or economic suffering to the woman, including threats of such aggression, pressure or deprivation of rights and freedoms, both in public and private life."

It allows women to seek restraining orders against their abusers without filing a criminal case or divorce. It also introduces new criminal provisions and increases penalties for various forms of violence when committed within members of the family. 

Rapists are no longer allowed to escape punishment if they marry their victim

Tunisia is actually considered one of a few Arab countries to impose death penalty on rapists, as punishment for rape ranges between 15 years to death penalty.

Legislators on Wednesday decided to further protect victims of rape, removing a controversial article that allowed rapists to escape punishment for their crimes if they marry their victims.

Employers can now be fined for discriminating against women

Source: Pinterest

The new law promotes equality between men and women in the work space by imposing fines on employers who intentionally discriminate against women in payment.

Tunisia leads the region in women's rights

Tunisia has long been hailed for leading the region with women's rights, with its personal status laws considered one of the most progressive in the region and the parliament having the highest female representation in any Arab country.