That elephant is, of course, Qur’an 4:34, which states: “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great.”
Granted, starting such a discussion in Saudi Arabia could result in the separation of one’s head from one’s neck for blasphemy. But that is precisely why violence against women will remain such an intractable problem: As long as sharia is the law of the land, no mere mortal can take away a man’s “right,” granted by divine fiat, to strike the women under his control.
Those who are interviewed below tread lightly for obvious reasons, and there are some vague and unenforceable platitudes about kindness. “Be kind” is a relative statement, especially if one should choose to define kindness as doing what one believes to be “best” for another person. “Don’t beat your wife” is a much clearer injunction, but since the Qur’an says otherwise, the only “progress” that may come in this context is hair-splitting on the frequency and severity of the beatings. And since women are shrouded from head to toe and largely confined to the home anyway, there is no reliable verification of “acceptable” or “unacceptable” beatings until a woman winds up in the hospital, or worse.
“Saudi Rights Body to Launch Drive to Check Violence against Women,” by Habib Shaikh for the Khaleej Times, December 27:
JEDDAH “” The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is to launch a kingdom-wide campaign to stop violence against women. The year-long drive will be inaugurated by Princess Hussa bint Tarad Ashaalan, wife of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, on Monday.
Wafiqa Al Dakheel, supervisor of HRC”s women’s wing, explained that the campaign is aimed at enlightening women of their rights as part of its responsibility to Saudi society.
According to press information, the campaign comes in the wake of the growing number of cases of domestic violence across the kingdom. Nearly 230 such cases were reported in Riyadh this year. The capital accounts for around 29 per cent of divorces in the kingdom.
Enaam Raboue, president of the Association for Family Protection in Jeddah, said her organisation received more than 250 family violence cases in the last five months.
She added that mental illness, drug abuse, alcoholism, poverty, unemployment and a lack of religious commitment and education were some of the reasons for family violence. The Council of Ministers last month reiterated the government’s resolve to protect the rights of women. It also called for more efforts to increase awareness among women about their rights.
Abdullah Saaty of the Jeddah Community College said that there was a dire need to change the attitude of society to women’s rights. “Islam protects the rights of women. The holy Quran and Sunnah urge Muslims to be kind to women. But we are not doing that,” he said.
Abdul Razak Al Zahrani of Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University said a committee of experts should be formed to look into family violence cases. “Newly married couples must be given guidance on how to avoid conflicts in family life,” he said, and added that mosques, schools and the media have their roles to play.
Al Dakheel stressed the need to provide legal and social assistance to women who are victims of family violence. “The campaign will highlight the importance of devising an effective plan to stop violence against women and establish centres to treat the victims of such violence,” she added.
The campaign also aims to educate men on the need to improve their treatment of women. […]
According to a study conducted by Khaled Al Radihan, an assistant professor of anthropology at King Saud University in Riyadh, involving 267 women, social, verbal and economic abuse of women is more widespread in Saudi society than physical and sexual abuse.
In his questionnaire, Al Radihan classified violence into eight categories “” physical, verbal, sexual, social, psychological, health-related, economic and violence in the form of negligence and deprivation “” and gave examples illustrating each type of violence.
He categorised the 267 women into married and single. Results showed that married women are abused mainly by their husbands; single women are abused by their male siblings more frequently than their fathers.
He said that economic abuse is when the husband forcefully takes his wife’s money or when he applies for a bank loan under her name without her consent.
The results of his research showed that 67 per cent of women suffer from economic abuse. “Economically abusing a woman also includes depriving her of her inheritance, which is very common here,” he added.
According to Al Radihan, there are many reasons for violence against women. She could be really stubborn and difficult to deal with, she might have unbearable financial demands and she might not obey her male guardian.
“The majority of men who abuse their women violently do so because of “˜male honour and female infidelity,” which damages a man’s reputation that he believes, can be partially restored through the use of violence,” he added.
Moreover, women are subjected to violence because of a lack of solid safeguards. It is difficult for victims to reach out for help because of the bureaucracy of security organisations, and lack of family guidance centres.
“It’s still a taboo for women to talk about these issues to people outside their family. We need to spread awareness among these women and educate them about their rights. We need to provide enough support and assistance while maintaining confidentiality to encourage women to seek help when they need it,” Al Radihan said.