Asharq Al-Awsat, Jeddah – “Do not dismiss the signs of violence. The brother who hits his sister might grow up to be a terrorist who will not limit himself to attacking an individual but strike against the entire society.” Al Jawhara al Inqari, who heads the family committee of the Saudi Human Rights Association, issued this stark warning at a seminar on domestic violence on Monday, during the third Women’s Work Fair. Participants agreed it was necessary to re-examine a number of beliefs held by Saudi society in order to discover a relation between these principles and a culture of violence.
Noura Al Sheikh, General Director for Women Social Supervision in Mecca, shed light on the causes of domestic violence and the dangers in the increasing numbers of nuclear families. When families do not share their difficulties with other members, they run the risk of increasing conflicts and developing psychological and social problems that can affect the entire society, she said. Noura al Sheikh called on social institutions to cooperate in order to face the threat of domestic violence because “victims are likely to inflict the same violence on others, whether inside the family or in society. Terrorism is one such example.”
Noura recommended the media expose outdated social beliefs and disseminate true Islamic values. The judiciary should also stop requiring women who want to initiate a khul divorce to pay compensation because, in a number of cases, “women have suffered from inhumane treatment,” she said.
The lecturer also proposed to retain full legal rights even in cases where the victims of domestic violence withdraw their claims because it would halt the spread of abuse against women and children. She also called for legal deterrents against domestic violence to be strengthened, family courts to be set up, as well as empowering school specialists by giving them additional powers to protect children and build safe houses throughout the Kingdom.
Charity organizations and other benefactors should establish charitable waqfs (endowments) to benefit the victims and “Charitable organizations should establish these centers and supervise them until they can manage themselves,” she added.
For her part, al Anqari expressed her distress at the number of cases of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia and indicated that, “despite a lack of accurate statistics, I know from experience that domestic violence has reached horrific levels.”
Prevention and treatment play an important role in combating domestic violence, al Anqari stated. Despite the difficulties and the time required, treatment was very important and should include rehabilitation. Protection, the easier and cheaper option was also crucial in the fight against domestic violence, “especially as 60% of the Saudi population are aged twenty and under. If we know how to raise them in a healthy environment in the home and at school, we will succeed in preventing domestic violence and violence in general.”