x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Expert tells of hidden domestic violence

Sociologist says some forms of maltreatment are so ingrained even wives accept them as normal.

DUBAI // Psychological pressure and depriving women of money are among the more common forms of domestic violence that remain unreported, a sociologist says.

Such actions are more common than physical abuse but often go unreported, Fatima Al Kindi of Al Nahda Women Association said yesterday. She was speaking at a seminar organised by Dubai Police on the subject of domestic violence.

"There are different types of violence in families," said Mrs Al Kindi, who worked at the Dubai Police human rights department for 10 years.

"However, while physical abuse is known and not accepted, there are other types such as depriving women of money or the right to make a decision."

Mrs Al Kindi said such cases were hidden from public view and accepted by many women as normal.

Some women are constantly tracked by their husbands, who watch their every movement and monitor their phones, she said.

"Such behaviour is justified by the husband as some form of caring jealousy, and many women tend to view it as normal behaviour even when it exceeds the normal limits of jealousy," Mrs Al Kindi said.

In other cases, she said, husbands had prevented their wives from driving as a form of control, and some used the children to force their wives to stay with them despite the abuse.

"This type of abuse is more widespread and it is more problematic as it is often not categorised as violence," Mrs Al Kindi said.

"Many women tend to accept such behaviour as she would, for example, see her brother do similar practices to his wife and thus come to think that it is normal."

One case she recalled involved a woman whose husband did not allow her to control her own salary.

"He took away her debit card and would only give her pocket money along with their children," said Mrs Al Kindi. "He was controlling everything she spent.

"The result was that she became isolated from friends and family as she could not afford any social activities. But she thought that it was normal for him to do that."

In some cases, she said, men have been the victims of marital abuse.

"One of the cases I dealt with was about a woman who complained that her husband was neglecting her and the children and had been away from home for two weeks.

"When we contacted the husband, it turned out to be that his wife had abused him and beaten him."

Some at yesterday's seminar disagreed with Mrs Al Kindi's definitions of domestic violence.

Ahmad Al Haddad, the Grand Mufti of Dubai, said: "Not all kinds of 'harm' is to be considered violence, only 'harm' inflicted unrightfully on others' soul, body or money."

Abdul Aziz Al Hammadi, the head of the family affairs unit at Dubai Courts, said Islamic law gave men the right to discipline their wives when they did something wrong.

"In the Quran there is a verse which says: 'As for those women on whose part you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, (and last) beat them. Then, if they obey you, seek not a way against them'."

But Mr Al Hammadi said one needed to understand what was meant by "beating". In Islamic tradition it means to hit with a suwac, which is a stick used to clean teeth.

"Discipline in Islam is allowed and should be used as a means to reform someone," he said. "But the problem is many have a wrong understanding of these concepts and tend not to understand, and thus family disputes arise from them."

Mr Al Hammadi said family problems from domestic violence made up about 5 per cent of the 3,012 cases reviewed by Dubai Courts last year.

Mariam Ali, the head of family guidance at the Abu Dhabi Family Development Authority, said not all of the issues Mrs Al Kindi mentioned should be considered abuse.

Khawla Abdullah, the head of the family consultation department at the authority, said some women needed to be disciplined "as they are impudent".