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Focus: Making it safe for women

What can be done so that our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are not afraid to step out? A panel of expert readers, who were invited to contribute, puts forward ideas for change. Post your views on our Facebook page or write to us at

  • Dr Matin Kramar, clinical psychologist in the UAEImage Credit: Supplied
  • Dr Abdullah Al Shaiba, a researcher on the UAEImage Credit: Supplied
  • Aisha Al Janahi, Works on raising awareness on issues of child abuseImage Credit: Supplied
Gulf News

Death penalty must be enforced
By Dr Abdullah Al Shaiba

Recently, the world was shocked by the gang-rape of a medical student in New Delhi, India, which resulted in the death of the victim. Rape is one of India’s most common crimes against women. Although marital rape is now illegal in India it is still widespread. The problem of rape is a significant problem in other countries too, which threatens social stability.


According to the US Department of Justice, 1 in 6 American women has either experienced an attempt or been raped. Sweden has the highest incidence of reported rapes in Europe. According to a 2009 study, there were 46 rapes per 100,000 residents. According to a news report on BBC One presented in 2007, 85,000 women were raped in the UK in the previous year, equating to about 230 cases every day. This global condition poses a serious threat to women and we need to help them restore their self-confidence to feel safe in their own communities. In some countries the death penalty is the punishment for drug dealers, and I believe raping a woman, which may result in her death, poses much greater danger to a society because in this case we may lose a mother, a wife, a sister or a daughter. Therefore, I believe we need to enforce strong world regulations through the United Nations to protect women. Besides, it is essential to develop new education programmes aimed at teaching young boys the ethics of treating girls in a respectful manner. Education and law enforcement must work together to protect women, which will certainly make all of us feel safe.


— The writer is a researcher on the UAE.

Legal and psychological support is crucial for rehabilitation
By Ghanima Al Bahri

From my point of view there are two basic elements that are needed. There are many laws that do support women but they are all separate and people are not aware of them. So first of all, if we put all these laws together there will be greater awareness and women will be able to take action whenever they face or witness assault or harassment.

The second need is to raise awareness about these laws. As we know, psychologically there are a lot of cultural barriers stopping women from seeking help from a counsellor or lawyer because they are afraid of stigmatisation within their family and society. Raising awareness will create a huge change not only about the legal issues but also about social and psychological issues.

A lot of women do not want to get legal help, but they still want psychological and social support, which is also critical for someone who has been a victim of abuse. A lot of women want to do it in a confidential way and they don’t find non-profit organisations (NPOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that do it free of charge.

Creating those organisations will also create a change, because during those counselling sessions they can have a re-think about that entire trauma that they have been through, which will also help us create a change.

The change can take place either way. You could start with the law and then raise awareness about the problems, which will lead to the creation of NGOs and NPOs. Or you could start by establishing such organisations that support women and if these organisations take an active lead in doing the needed research on the issue, they can put the needed pressure on lawmaking bodies to create supportive laws.

— The writer is the acting care and rehab director at Dubai Foundation for Women and Children.

Teach your sons how to behave better
By Aisha Abdul Noor Al Janahi

We need to have harsher penalties — those charged with brutal abuse should be jailed for life.

Secondly, as a woman, you should take precautions. If there are strangers at a gathering at night and I am the only woman, I wouldn’t go. Make your own calculations just to be safe.

But most importantly, we need to focus on our children. We should instil the right values in them. Parents sometimes try to change their son’s behaviour after he has grown up, but that is too late. My son is three years old and recently he simply started hitting girls. I had to stop him and communicate to him that he can’t do something like that. You need to choose the right words and you need to explain things in a simple manner.

Now he has just stopped doing it. Whatever you do, your children copy you. If you hit him, he will take that aggressive behaviour outside and hurt others. What you instil in your children today is what you will see manifest in them in the future.

— The writer works to raise awareness against child abuse

Re-educate people on the value of women
By Dr Martin Kramar

How can the world be made a safer place for women? This is a huge question, especially in countries where women are underestimated. Firstly, I believe the perception that a woman is less than a man must be done away with. They must be re-educated — in schools and in society — that women are equal and precious. Only women can give life and that should be very valuable to us. Unfortunately, many women end up succumbing to social pressure because they don’t have freedom and they are not given their rights. While the instances of assault are found in countries like the US, too, the advantage is that their courts, jurisdiction and laws are very tough. If similar laws are implemented in other countries it would help get things under control.

There was a lot of value given to women in these countries, but that has changed now. We need to go back to those values that are part of the country’s history and culture. The value of women in many countries has gone down, and that is really concerning.

— The writer is a clinical psychologist working in the UAE.



 Harsher penalties need to be handed down to those convicted of sexual assault.

 A campaign to re-educate people on respect towards women is needed.

 Parents need to take responsibilty for instilling the right values in their children.