New law fails to curb domestic violence in Saudi Arabia

There were 1,049 cases of domestic violence and child abuse last year in Saudi Arabia despite new family protection laws

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There were 1,049 cases of domestic violence and child abuse last year despite new family protection laws that were implemented after they were approved by the Cabinet, according to the Social Affairs Ministry.

There was hope that the law would contribute to curbing child abuse, especially because it ensured protection from domestic violence of all kinds. This was apart from providing assistance, treatment and shelter as well as social, psychological and health care, Al-Madinah daily reported.

It was hoped that the penalties, which include imprisonment and a fine of up to SR50,000 ($13,300), would deter would-be abusers.

But what is surprising is that cases of domestic violence and abuse, especially against women and children, are increasing.

Not only this, but pictures and videos of such incidents, apparently for entertainment, are appearing on social media.

This led Grand Mufti of the Kingdom Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Asheikh to go on Saudi TV to say transmitting video clips showing the abuse of children was a bad act. Asheikh said child abuse is forbidden in Islam and added there is no harm in publishing such video clips in order to criticize them, but publishing them for the sake of recreation was forbidden.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance has instructed imams to dedicate Friday sermons to this subject and warn men against beating children and women and depriving them of their personal rights, including access to education.

Member of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) in Makkah Mohammad Abdulraheem Kelantan said perpetrators of domestic violence might be suffering from a personality or psychological disorder.

“He might be involved in drug abuse or taking liquor. He might be suffering from a mental disease.

“This requires each case to be studied separately and a treatment recommended.”

Guidance supervisor in Makkah Huriyah al-Lahyani said there was a necessity to name and shame those who carry out acts of abuse and punish them severely.

She said some stepmothers treat their stepchildren cruelly and that their mental health must be studied.

The Social Affairs Ministry Director General of Social Protection Mohammad al-Harbi said there were 392 cases of domestic violence in Riyadh, 157 in Asir province, 106 in Makkah, 70, in Jeddah and 62 in Taif.

Lamya Bashawri, member of the Shifa Society in Makkah, said there is a study in the kingdom confirming that child abuse and violence against women occurs more in low-income families. The percentage of violence against children has reached 29 percent in families with an income of less than SR3,000 a month, she claimed.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014.

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