Abu Dhabi: Ibtisam Mansour Al Qahtani, a columnist in Al Riyadh newspaper, has brought to the fore a serious issue facing Saudi society: domestic violence. SHe believes the tribe is an integral part of Saudi society. "Its position and the role it plays in building and unifying society and promoting the concept of social values cannot be ignored, but when it exceeds the limits of human and human rights, it is necessary to draw a dividing line, which takes it from its tribal framework into a civil law, that criminalizes any tribal attempt to end and obliterate any issue of domestic violence”, she wrote.
“Perhaps the increase in recent cases of domestic violence, and the ensuing tragic crimes, was an extension of that tribal interference in those cases of domestic violence,” Al Qahtani says.
“As soon as the police start their formalities after filing the complaint, it ends within hours or perhaps two days when a sheikh, village deputy or one of the elders of the tribe comes to the victim, and demands that the complaint be waived after a nose kiss or throwing the headband and ghutra, because they believe that domestic violence is just a family issue, and they sense fear of shame and tribal defect when transmitting the family and tribe name in a case of violence within the corridors of the police, and courts. Thus, the complaint or case is settled without the perpetrator being held accountable for the crime of taunting. Moreover, the victim remains under the influence of violence and bullying against her,” Al Qahtani says.
Al Qahtani argues the responsibility primarily to stop and prevent these interventions and tribal reconciliation in cases of domestic violence is borne by several civil bodies, in addition to human rights bodies that are only condemning domestic violence and assaulting women and children in all its forms, without enacting laws and regulations, suspending and criminalising these tribal interventions in cases of domestic violence, because the human interest must be above all tribal interests, ideas and practices.”
She continues, “Tribal interventions are negative and destructive, because they strongly stand in the way of all family concepts, human values, principles of justice, human rights and equality between members of society.”
In 2013, Saudi Arabia passed a landmark legislation aimed at protecting women, children and domestic workers against domestic abuse, in a move aimed at reducing hidden violence against women in the kingdom.
The “Protection from Abuse” law is the first of its kind in the ultra-conservative country.
Under the law, those found guilty of committing psychological or physical abuse could face prison sentences of up to one year and up to 50,000 riyals ($13,300) in fines.
'Not a criminal issue'
“I know that there are those who confirm the existence of special laws and regulations to protect women and children from domestic violence, but unfortunately they continue to suffer loopholes that have made them not applicable to the victim or the criminal, because dealing with domestic violence cases is, in its entirety, still a family and social issue, and not a criminal one,” Al Qahtani says.
Al Qahtani concludes, “Therefore, it is necessary to expedite the enactment of laws that prevent tribal interference in cases of domestic violence, which is one of the most fundamental guarantees to reduce cases of violence against women and children in society.”
Eleven studies have been conducted in six cities (Riyadh, Jeddah, Medina, Taif, Arar, and Al Ahsa) found that the lifetime prevalence of domestic violence ranged between 39.3 and 44.5 per cent. The most frequently reported risk factors for domestic violence were the level of education of both the victim and the spouse and alcohol or drug addiction of the spouse.
One in every three women in Saudi Arabia is a victim of domestic violence. Strategies to reduce risk factors, prevent domestic violence, care for victims, and mitigate the effects of domestic violence must be adopted by health care agencies in Saudi Arabia, the studies concluded.