Basira

Domestic Violenceby Ahlam Akram
Violence against women is an awful crime that happens in every country and within each and every community across the world. The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Conference annually has to recommend ways to eliminate such continuing violence against the female gender by outlining steps to realise the sexual and reproductive health for all.

It states how imperative the task is and that it must be a priority towards achieving the eradication of poverty and in helping with sustainable development; as well as to bring peace and security, guarantee human rights for physical and mental health, gender equality, growth and social cohesion.

Violence against women also comes in many different guises, but what is most troubling for the Arab Muslim region is that Political Islam wants to legalise some of these violations by incorporating them into the legal systems based on the Sharia, a religion-based law that is subject to various interpretations.

Unfortunately, such an approach can only further and harden a patriarchal religious culture and allow for more infringements of women’s rights. Already, a woman is considered a part of the male’s property rather than as a free human being or as an equal partner.

The roots of control over women in Muslim communities all over the world are to be found in the many interpretations of Sharia law, which is effectively open to various – and at times even contradictory – interpretations, as per this video that gives permission to beat a woman:

 Another problem is that a very high percentage of the victims of domestic violence in Arab countries end up hiding the issue or altogether denying it, because of a cultural stigma and taboo attached to bringing out in the open. Most likely, the woman feels embarrassed to speak about the abuse because it is still believed a man has the right to beat her if she disobeys him.

Therefore, the majority of incidents go unreported to the authorities for fear of bringing shame to the whole family. In fact, the worse case scenario is when a woman is forced to marry her rapist to maintain the family honour and blatantly allowing him to escape judicial punishment.

Although domestic violence is usually a physically aggressive act, there are other just as harmful ways that negatively impact on the psychology of a woman that are permissible under Sharia; and, in the general granting of male guardianship over women, a man can feel entitled to do as he pleases.

The other ways where a woman is unfairly treated by Sharia provisions can be by way of the right of man to marry up to four wives, the inequality in the distribution of inheritance and the belittling of women in court where a female’s testimony is considered half that of a male’s.

What is most troubling today is that in some Arab countries, led by the religious clerics, strong reservations are being voiced regarding the CEDAW Agreement and new UN resolutions that are there to eliminate violence against women and girls and to ensure for their sexual and reproductive health.

They claim that any proposed changes to women’s situation is a violation of their family laws and the morals formulated by God in his book to protect the universe. They say that the CEDAW Agreement is but an intentional attempt to undermine the moral fabric of Muslim countries and forbid what God has permitted to them.

Such flimsy excuses being used on the basis of ‘cultural specificity’- or the local customs and traditions – are a way of preventing women’s rights and liberties from being legally enshrined and should be considered void for the 21st century.

Any government anywhere in the world must take on the moral responsibility to empower the women under its rule and to help especially those who come from a financially or a culturally under-privileged background. It is their job to honour women by implementing a just legal system to protect their dignity and offer justice for all.