Dubai: Over 1,500 cases of domestic violence against women have been reported to the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWC) during the last seven years.
The cases involved Dubai women residents over the age of 18, who come from different nationalities and have faced physical, emotional, or psychological domestic violence by men in their families.
These cases were reported to the foundation either directly or through other government bodies between July 2007 — after the establishment of the Foundation — and mid-2015, said Ghanima Hassan Al Bahri, Care and Rehabilitation Director of DFWC, at a panel discussion organised by Arabic magazine Zahrat Al Khaleej.
The event, which focused on a campaign launched by the magazine titled ‘Don’t cover it up’, invited psychologists and experts to discuss the impact of domestic abuse and the efforts needed to raise awareness and educate the society.
While no official figures on cases of domestic violence against women are available in Dubai, Ghanima said more women are speaking up and seeking help.
“It is difficult to say if there is an increase or decrease in the number of cases but with growing awareness on the matter, we find that more women are asking for help,” she said.
The Foundation provides immediate intervention, psychological help, and shelter to women who suffer from domestic violence. During the seven-year period, more than 200 women have been provided shelter by the foundation for an average of three to six months. Over 10 extreme cases have resulted in the women residing at the shelter for several years.
Ghanima explained that each woman who comes forward is offered help after her case is evaluated. “We deal with each case confidentially, and we offer the woman several options and respect her decisions,” said Ghanima.
A need for a new law
Pointing out that the UAE does not have a specific law that protects women against domestic violence, Ghanima emphasised the need for a regulated policy. “We are working on putting together a policy and purposing it for evaluation with the hope of creating a new law that can serve all seven emirates,” she said.
Similarly, another speaker at the event, Clinical Psychologist Dr Samira Al Ghamdi, said along with the lack of laws, societies in Gulf countries are wary of discussing topics such as domestic violence. “In the past, [domestic violence] used to exist as women were told to be submissive in order to be accepted by their husbands and in society. Today, domestic violence still exists and many women in the Gulf don’t know their rights and remain quiet,” she said.
Dr Samira explained that psychological abuse and emotional manipulation can also lead to physical abuse. “Psychological violence appears in many forms — it can be silent torture that can break a woman from the inside and usually takes place over time,” said Dr Samira.
Speakers also called on government organisations, educational institutions and the media to help educate society about the rights of women, and support the fight against domestic violence.
Women suffering from domestic abuse in the UAE can seek help by calling the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children on 800-111 all round the clock.