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Family security in Saudi Arabia: A national strategy needed?

What is the concept of family security? What is it based on? Find out what experts in Saudi Arabia are saying:

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Concepts like intellectual security, national security and public security are being repeated a lot through articles by the elite in the media, but a similar concept might be more important. Family security should be given more attention because the family is the nucleus and a small unit for building societies. Also, its security means the security of the nation and its instability affects national security.

What is the concept of family security? What is it based on? How can it be achieved? Al-Madinah Arabic daily posed these questions and more to experts.

Consultant psychiatrist and assistant secretary-general of the Federation of Arab Psychiatrists, Dr. Tariq Al-Habib, said while there is no strategic plan for family security in the Kingdom, there are personal opinions on many related issues like violence against children and women’s rights.

“Building an integrated system to solve all family issues is a basic demand. Laying down a plan for this concept including the laws and regulations it comprises is an easy matter especially for experts, but the difficulty is in implementing them, especially since it might face opposition from certain members of society because Saudi society is sometimes hostile to new ideas,” he said.

Al-Habib cited the law on domestic violence as an example because it was met with mockery, but it confirmed that it is better not to listen to critics, especially when it comes to laws that protect rights. “What is required is to forge ahead with the planning stage and confirm the correctness of the ideas and laws first. Then, they should be implemented even if there is some opposition by society,” he added.

Al-Habib likened the family to a mini state because the state is formed of a number of families. A government employee forms a family and if he feels secure, he will make others feel secure and have peace of mind. If he feels insecure, he will become a bad employee.

Al-Habib said the Ministry of Social Affairs is the authority responsible for implementing the concept of family security, aside from the efforts of civil society institutions and charitable organizations.

“It’s important for the government to get involved because private organizations lack coordination and also lack unified targets and plans. There are many people eager to address family issues while experts are lacking and this weakens the effectiveness of implementation of plans related to family affairs.”

Writer and academic Maysoon Al-Dakheel said the Kingdom is in need of a comprehensive family strategy that cares for and pays attention to the family everywhere in the nation — whether in the city or remote villages.

“There should be an authority or commission for implementing this strategy. In many countries there are ministries or authorities concerned with family and child affairs or women and children’s affairs. It is among the functions of this ministry or authority to focus on building the family and looking after its needs. It is necessary that the head of this ministry or authority should be a woman because she will be the most capable to administer family affairs,” she said.

Al-Dakheel said the concept of family security requires drawing up a vision and a message specifying families’ priorities. Once this is done, all strategies and executive plans can be laid down.

“This vision should be known to all members of society. Not only this, but they should participate in formulating and boosting it. The most important thing that the family needs in our society is interaction between family members,” she said.

Al-Dakheel went on to say tribal preparedness, marital life skills and protection from violence and awareness are some of the needs of Saudi families. She said families need to learn how to differentiate between customs and traditions that harm the family and its structure, especially those that destroy the family, like prevention of marriage (Al-Adhl) or the dominance of males in society.

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