FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Domestic Violence is Widespread in the Middle East

Gender violence, manifested essentially as violence against women, is one of the most significant epidemics in the Middle East today. This kind of violence occurs in practically all countries in the region and affects families of all backgrounds, religions, and social spheres. It affects not only families but societies as a whole.

It is estimated that 37 percent of women in Arab countries have experienced domestic violence. According to a United Nations report, approximately 200,000 women were victims of domestic violence in Israel between 2014 and 2015.

Various cultural, economic, and social factors, including shame and fear of retaliation from their partners, contribute to women’s reluctance to denounce these acts. The women who speak up mostly turn to their families and friends rather than the police. The lack of effective judicial response to their accusations contributes to their discouragement. North Africa and the Middle East have the fewest legal protections against domestic violence.

Consequences of domestic violence

“Violence against women has multiple consequences, at the individual level, within the family, community and wider society. It can lead to fatal outcomes and have a significant burden on the economy,” said Manal Benkirane, regional program specialist at the UN Women’s Regional Office for Arab States.

Worldwide, violence is as common a cause of death and disability as cancer is among women of reproductive age. It is also a greater cause of ill-health than traffic accidents and malaria put together. Public health experts increasingly consider violence against women a public health issue, one requiring a public health approach.

The experience of violence makes women more susceptible to a variety of mental health problems such as depression, suicide, and alcohol and drug abuse. Sexual violence also increases women’s risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS (through forced sexual relations or because of the difficulty in persuading men to use condoms). It may also lead to serious gynecological problems.

The World Organization against Torture has expressed its concern regarding the high levels of violence against women worldwide. Although provisions related to domestic violence are included in several national policies and laws, there are difficulties in implementing them. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “nearly half of women who die due to homicide are killed by their current or former husbands or boyfriends.”

Public health experts increasingly consider violence against women a public health issue. Studies carried out in the Arab world show that 70 percent of violence occurs in big cities, and that in almost 80 percent of cases those responsible are the heads of families, such as fathers or eldest brothers. In most cases, they assert their right to punish their wives and children in any way they see appropriate.

Of the 22 United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) member states, only Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are considered to have laws to protect women against domestic abuse.

There has been some progress, however, regarding this problem. Tunisia, for example, continues to raise the bar for Arab women’s rights in the 21st century. In 2014, The Ministry of Women and Family Affairs wrote a draft bill condemning and criminalizing domestic violence. The draft law was approved in 2016.

In Lebanon, there are no reliable statistics about domestic violence, a subject that to a large extent still remains a taboo in Lebanese society. In 2009, the second Arab Regional Conference for Family Protection took place in Jordan. It was held under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania, chairperson of the National Council for Family Affairs (NCFA). The conference formulated a unified strategy for safeguarding families from domestic violence, with the attendance of family experts and sociologists from the Arab world.

In Morocco, the Union of Women’s Action (UAF) has organized forums to raise public awareness of violence against women, and lobby local groups to protect victimized women. At the same time, counseling centers have been set up to allow women to talk about their problems and receive help. In Egypt, where the phenomenon is pervasive in society, Beit Hawa (The House of Eve) was founded as the first comprehensive women’s shelter in Egypt and the Arab world.

In December of 2018, protesters across Israel criticized the government’s failure to address violence against women. Chanting to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “wake up, our blood is not cheap,” the protest was a reaction to the killings of 24 women last year at the hands of a partner, family member or an acquaintance. After the protests, the Welfare Ministry reported a 150 percent increase in complaints about domestic violence cases in the country.

Addressing domestic violence

However, more work has to be done if this epidemic of violence is going to be controlled. Government and community leaders should spearhead efforts to create a culture of openness and support to eliminate the stigma associated with this problem.

Furthermore, it is necessary not only to enact but also to enforce legislation that criminalizes all forms of violence against women, including marital rape. Laws should be followed up with plans for specific national action.

The 2009 report by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) stated that women’s lack of social participation “is primarily attributable to the existence of discriminatory laws, failure to implement the nondiscriminatory legislation that does exist, and a lack of awareness by women of their rights in such matters.”

There cannot be true development in the Middle East without women’s progress and the recognition of their rights. As a Human Development Report stated, “The rise of Arab women is in fact a prerequisite for an Arab renaissance and is causally linked to the fate of the Arab world and its achievement of human development.”

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 22, 2019
George Ochenski
Breaking the Web of Life
Kenneth Surin
Boris Johnson’s Brexit Helter Skelter
Enrique C. Ochoa – Gilda L. Ochoa
It’s About Time for Ethnic Studies in Our K-12 Schools
Steve Early
A GI Rebellion: When Soldiers Said No to War
Clark T. Scott
Sanders And Bezos’s Shared, Debilitating, Basic Premise
Dan Corjescu
The Metaphysics of Revolution
Mark Weisbrot
Who is to Blame for Argentina’s Economic Crisis?
Howard Lisnoff
To Protect and Serve
Cesar Chelala
A Palestinian/Israeli Experiment for Peace in the Middle East
Binoy Kampmark
No Deal Chaos: the Brexit Cliff Face and Operation Yellowhammer
Josue De Luna Navarro
For True Climate Justice, Abolish ICE and CBP
Dean Baker
The NYT’s Upside Down Economics on Germany and the Euro Zone
August 21, 2019
Craig Collins
Endangered Species Act: A Failure Worth Fighting For?
Colin Todhunter
Offering Choice But Delivering Tyranny: the Corporate Capture of Agriculture
Michael Welton
That Couldn’t Be True: Restorying and Reconciliation
John Feffer
‘Slowbalization’: Is the Slowing Global Economy a Boon or Bane?
Johnny Hazard
In Protest Against Police Raping Spree, Women Burn Their Station in Mexico City.
Tom Engelhardt
2084: Orwell Revisited in the Age of Trump
Binoy Kampmark
Condescension and Climate Change: Australia and the Failure of the Pacific Islands Forum
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
The Dead Letter Office of Capitalist Imperium: a Poverty of Mundus Imaginalis 
George Wuerthner
The Forest Service Puts Ranchers Ahead of Grizzlies (and the Public Interest)
Stephen Martin
Geopolitics of Arse and Elbow, with Apologies to Schopenhauer.
Gary Lindorff
The Smiling Turtle
August 20, 2019
James Bovard
America’s Forgotten Bullshit Bombing of Serbia
Peter Bolton
Biden’s Complicity in Obama’s Toxic Legacy
James Phillips
Calm and Conflict: a Dispatch From Nicaragua
Karl Grossman
Einstein’s Atomic Regrets
Colter Louwerse
Kushner’s Threat to Palestine: An Interview with Norman Finkelstein
Nyla Ali Khan
Jammu and Kashmir: the Legitimacy of Article 370
Dean Baker
The Mythology of the Stock Market
Daniel Warner
Is Hong Kong Important? For Whom?
Frederick B. Mills
Monroeism is the Other Side of Jim Crow, the Side Facing South
Binoy Kampmark
God, Guns and Video Games
John Kendall Hawkins
Toni Morrison: Beloved or Belovéd?
Martin Billheimer
A Clerk’s Guide to the Unspectacular, 1914
Elliot Sperber
On the 10-Year Treasury Bonds 
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail