Eliminating violence against women [Archives:2005/828/Community]

March 28 2005

By Khaled Alhilaly
[email protected]
For the Yemen Times

Of all human rights issues, it is the issue of violence against women that must be a priority. Violence, like discrimination, is an infringement of human rights which integral to any truly democratic system.

Islam gave women rights over than 1,400 years ago and placed them on a higher pedestal in society than ever before. These rights included the right to child custody, the right of inheritance, the right to equal status and the right to divorce. Yet unfortunately, women still lag behind in social development in some Muslim societies. This backwardness is rooted in male prejudice and non-religious cultural taboos.

I acknowledge that the Qur'an permits a husband to beat his wife, though a correct reading of this verse indicates that he should use nothing more injurious than a miswak, a twig that commonly serves as a toothbrush in the Muslim world. Women are subjected to injustice, violence and marginalization despite the deference and fairness accorded to them by Islam.

Violence against women is a universal issue, crossing the boundaries of culture, geography, race, ethnicity, class and religion, however illiterate and poor women are particularly vulnerable. In many countries laws offer only limited protection to women, often treating domestic violence as a “private family matter”, not one warranting legislative intervention or administrative intrusion.

Educational expansion plays an important role in the reduction of violence against women. Arab states have clearly overcome traditional barriers to educating women. Accordingly, education rates have risen rapidly, however half Arab women still cannot read and four million girls are not in schools.

One in four women suffer violence at some time during their lives. In a male dominated society, women are suffering in silence. Injuries to breasts, abdomen, or chest leading sometimes to miscarriage or other fetal problems, fractured bones, lost teeth and non-physical cases such as depression all are examples of frequent domestic violence against women.

Furthermore, rape rates have risen recently and in most Arab countries awareness of sexual harassment is only a recent phenomenon, with legal redress still limited and uncertain.

Unfortunately, GPs in causality departments are not trained for identifying such cases. Doctors and health workers still turn a blend eye to tell-tale signs of violence such as bruises and black eyes, and don't even offer any practical help.

There are several ways to prevent violence against women. Women's organizations, research centers and governmental agencies should step up their efforts and activities to press for women's legal rights. Legal measures must be adopted towards the elimination of violence against women.

Legal literacy campaigns could be organized to make women fully aware of their legal rights. Reintegration would be easier if psychological treatment was provided and women's shelters were spread throughout the region.

Specially trained female police officers could provide assistance to victims of violence. Regulating the media's treatment of violence and their manipulation of the female body is another effective way of eliminating such behavior in everyday life.