A debate erupted among Saudis after the ministry of social affairs issued a decision to penalize men who beat up their wives, fining them 50,000 royals, or around $10,000.
Most of those debating the issue have probably never beaten up a woman but the decision annoyed them because it threatened the rights they had buried in their subconscious. These people maintained those rights should they decide to use them one day and therefore felt someone had pulled a stick from their hand; a stick they don’t even need.
Using the Twitter hashtag "beating up the wife for 50,000," men made jokes about the new legislation. Those who thought they were clever enough to take the money from their wives following the beating were disappointed to find the fines go to the government, not to the victims. The money paid is just like paying a traffic fine.
Some joked that those who beat up their wives might as well kill them because its economical, especially considering 10,000 dollars is an amount for a dowry. Tweets joked that husbands should be calm and instead of beating up their wives, marry a second one for the same price.
Some of those against the decision said beating up their wives is a right granted to men by nature. Others considered it a right granted by Sharia law. It's as if they don't know that prophet Mohammad never beat up a wife of his and actually described those who hit their wives as evil. But the ministry of social affairs denied this fact out of fear of upsetting "men's civil peace."
Those objecting the decision are only thinking about the rights of husbands. If you suggest that his daughter be beaten up by her husband or that his mother be beaten up by his father, he would condemn the act. It's as if the person's dignity differs by his status and is not measured by the mere fact that the victim is a human.
This article was first published in al-Hayat on April 19, 2014.
Dr. Badria al-Bishr is a multi-award-winning Saudi columnist and novelist. A PhD graduate from the American University of Beirut, and an alumnus of the U.S. State Department International Visitor program. Her columns put emphasis on women and social issues in Saudi Arabia. She currently lectures at King Saud University's Department of Social Studies.
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