“My husband beats [Archives:1998/04/Reportage]

January 26 1998

By Khairia Al-Shabeebi
Spousal abuse is a lot more common than you would think. It is a harsh reality for millions of women across the world. Abuse can be very destructive in many ways. It can cause physical injury to women. Worst of all, however, it lowers a woman’s self-esteem, making her feel worthless. Here are some real examples from Sanaa.
1) A woman aged 39 with 5 children, tells her story: I met my husband by chance at my job. He was very impressed by me. He is from Taiz and I am from Sana’a. We have been married for 21 years and we have 5 children. He is in contracting. He never hit me until 2 years ago, when business starting going down, and he started to chew qat heavily. Since then, his psychological condition has changed for the worse. He has become nervous. At first, it never affected the way he treated me. Then suddenly, he began to get upset at any trifling thing and swears at me. This is very hard for the children and me.
In his second year of chewing qat, he would lose his temper if I rearranged the furniture or if there was not enough food. He curses me saying “Damn you, you bastard!”. I try to explain to him that this is wrong, but he does not listen to me. One day, he lost something from his pocket and accused me of losing it. When I told him that I did not know where it was, he slapped me so much that I became dazed. I swore I will not stay in his house, and he swore back at me. The children often stand by me, so he feels alone. Our eldest son has begun to imitate his father in his acts, commands and lies. I am enduring this so that my sons will not have to become bums. Not too long ago, my husband got so angry that he broke the telephone on my head. I was badly bruised that a doctor was brought in to look after me After he is finished beating and cursing me, my husband calms down and apologizes. I am very soft-hearted and, in the end, I always accept the situation. Until when, I don’t know? The bad business complicated by heavy qat chewing led to the change in his temper. He doesn’t deal with people the same way that he used to. He breaks many promises that he makes.
2) A 40 year old woman tells her story: I got married to a 25 year old man when I found myself an old maid and no one had asked for my hand. I got to know him through his sister. I used to visit them at their house and he used to give me looks of admiration. He was very handsome and I am average looking. The difference between us in age is obvious. I have worked in a bank for a long time while he was a university student. One day he asked me to meet him outside the house. And we met and he asked for my hand in marriage and I agreed with pleasure. I did not know that he wanted to live in my house. The marriage took place, in spite of the objection of his relatives. I have two brothers, aged 15 and 12 who also live with us.
I soon found that my husband was a lazy bum who was good for nothing. He only wanted to stay at home while I provided for him. He used to take my money and drink alcohol with it, without my knowing. I didn’t know that he was an alcoholic, since he came home after I was asleep. One day he came home drunk and I could smell it on him. I said to him, “You get drunk with the money that I work hard for?” And he broke a bottle on my head. I was bleeding so my brothers took me to the hospital to have my wound stitched. When we returned home, he was asleep. Of course, my brothers could not do anything to him, since they are still too young. I didn’t want to ask for a divorce, to avoid the malicious gossip of people. But the problems continued. The marriage didn’t last long as he started to beat me and tear my clothes when I refuse to give him money. Then, one day I finally went to the court and asked for a divorce. I told the judge everything and he issued a judgment of divorce. By this, my drama ended after living one year of a miserable marital life.
3) A 29 year old woman tells her story: I married a 33 year old man nine years ago. The problems started after 3 years of our marriage, mostly due to household needs and expenses. He could not provide me with food and other necessary things. I sold most of my gold to survive. I was left with only one ring because of my husband’s carelessness and low income. I urged him to look for a second job, in the afternoons. He paid no attention to me. My husband works for the Ministry of Supply and didn’t want to look for another job. I told him I would not take it any more. The problems got worse and he started to insult me. One day, I responded to his insults likewise. He hit me, but I could not complain to my family because they would say that we are only having problems and it has been just 3 years of marriage. To make things worse, I got pregnant and we had a baby, which means more needs. My husband did not want to bear any responsibility. One day we started shouting over milk for the baby. I lost my temper and cursed his father, and he cursed my father. Then he hit me, and the neighbors intervened. The following day, I went to court to complain to the judge. The judge ordered my husband treat me fairly. We returned home and after a short time he asked me to sell my ring. I refused, so he threw me and my baby out. I went to the court asking for a divorce, which I got. My daughter is with me because she is still young. I think the main reason for my husband’s behavior is that he could not provide us with our needs.
These stories are true examples true of what happens to Yemeni women every day. Men are often blind to the damage they do to their wives by beating them. If they would only stop to think about it, maybe they would see how wrong it is to abuse their partners. At the same time, society should consider what options abused women could have. At this moment, the poor women have no real viable recourse.