Skip to comments.Victims of Spousal Abuse Prefer Silence (Saudi Arabia)
Posted on 05/18/2004 6:04:06 PM PDT by Land_of_Lincoln_John
JEDDAH, 19 May 2004 Although the case of Rania Al-Baz brought a whirlwind of media attention to the issue of spousal abuse in Saudi Arabia, most victims remain silent.
Perhaps more abused women will be encouraged to speak out now that people are talking about the issue, but unless steps are taken to protect the victims, not much will change for these women. They often have nowhere to go, no one to take care of the children, and they worry what will people say about them if they get a divorce.
The last thing they think about is themselves, which is why by the time they come here they are suffering from depression, said Manal Al-Somali, social worker at King Fahd Hospitals psychiatric clinic. Some attempt suicide, especially younger women and non-Saudis.
The clinic sees around three cases a week of women with depression who on investigation turn out to have suffered years of abuse. Their ages generally range from 40 to over 50, according to Al-Somali, and the sad thing is that they do not realize that all those years of abuse are affecting them mentally and psychologically.
Ninety percent of them have seen their mothers being abused and so they consider it a normal thing in marriage, she said. A particularly disturbing case Al-Somali came across was of a 48-year-old university professor who was depressed because her husband beat her. The problem for this woman, however, was not that her husband had been beating her for years it was that on the last occasion he beat her with his slipper.
In her ten years at the hospital, Al-Somali has never seen anything like Ranias case because usually at that stage the victim is taken to the emergency room, which informs the police. Unless the woman presses charges, the case is not recorded, which is why there are no statistics on domestic abuse.
Even when the social worker tries to intervene on behalf of the abused woman, she is prevented either by the woman herself or the family.
Al-Somali recalls a newly married woman whose husband punched her in the face and broke her nose. The husband said he was joking with her, and even the girls family tried to cover up the incident by saying that their daughter fell. Most of the women who visit the clinic are uneducated and unemployed.
The psychiatric clinic does see some cases of physical abuse referred from the emergency room. The women are offered psychiatric treatment and counseling, but they invariably refuse to involve their husbands in the process. Although the husband is an important part of the treatment, we never had any in our clinic, and most often the women do not follow up on the treatment, said Al-Somali.
The first step that can be taken immediately is educating couples about to marry about their rights and obligations, Al-Somali said. If we establish marriage counseling centers in every neighborhood where people can go before they are married and whenever they have problems afterward, this could prevent many of the problems that lead to divorce, she said.
Also, she feels Islamic scholars should talk about these issues more and highlight Islamic family values. While shelters for abused women are a good idea in principle, Al-Somali feels it is not practical. Our society does not look favorably at a woman living by herself, and it is a big responsibility for those managing the shelter, she said.
In addition, women here are not independent entities: They need the permission of a mahram or wakeel (male guardian), which again puts them at the mercy of their husbands or fathers. For the clinic, the most they can do is counsel the woman and suggest that she occupies her time with a hobby to take her mind off her situation. Few of these women know what they want and can see a way out for themselves.
Or preschool-age sons. The lives of these poor women are just dreadful!
What a strange culture. Don't the women ever have reason to whack their man around on occassion? Don't remember ever reading where the man was clobbered by his wife.
They poison their husbands' food, or mix in ground-up glass. When you can't strike back in small ways, you go for the kill.
I think what I was wondering, are there any muslim laws that would allow women to punish their husbands. Like shave their beards off, cut their fingers or other stray digits and extremities off without fear of reprisal?
>Don't remember ever reading where the man was clobbered by >his wife.
In most of these countries, this is grounds to get away with murder. Literally.
No, the Muslim religion doesn't address that, but "law" is different from "custom." In a polygamous culture, a woman's closest ties are with her full brothers (same father AND mother). This is illustrated as far back as the Old Testament.
The status of a wife may be legally very constricted, but if her brothers are sensitive to the way their sister is treated, they may take drastic action against an abusive husband from outside the immediate family. Obviously there's a lot of socio-political subtext here!
Under Islamic law, a woman who's divorced is entitled to the refund of her dowry, and eligible for future marriage. It doesn't always work out that way in practice, though.
In a way, it's similar to Orthodox Jewish practice ... a woman can't initiate a divorce, but she has important rights, including financial rights, if she can GET a divorce.
Thanks for the information.