Riyadh – The public administration for social protection in Saudi Arabia, affiliated to the Ministry of Social Affairs, has established thirteen committees across the Kingdom to follow up cases of domestic abuse, especially those involving women and children. Each committee will be assigned a telephone number to receive complaints from the public about cases of domestic abuse, including physical and sexual assaults.
So far, caution has typified the public’s response to government initiatives, because the conservative society prohibits the disclosure of family secrets and women and children continue to fear the consequences of coming forward to complain about being targeted.
Sharifa al Makki, head of the women’s division in the social protection committee in Najran, told Asharq Al Awsat that individuals hesitated before contacting the authority to report any instances of abuse. However, since the committee’s inception in March last year, it has received seven complaints of physical assaults on teenagers as well as a number of reports of mistreatment. Al Makki indicated that a number of wives contacted the committee to report being abused or assaulted by family members.
Al Makki said the authorities have realized that most cases of abuse go unreported, because of social reservations. Instead, victims enlist the help of their families and avoid disclosing family secrets.
In Hail province, the social protection committee received three reports of criminal attacks in 2006. In Mecca, Ihsan bin Saleh al Tayeb, head of the social services department, stated that 190 cases of alleged abuse were reported in 2005. They included 111 cases of physical assault, 15 cases of sexual assault, and 29 instances of psychological abuses. In Jeddah, the number of complaints reached 147 last year. Al Taif province had the lowest numbers of complaints in 2005 with only 9 cases being reported to the authorities.