x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

'Harsher penalties for abusers a must'

A survey of 100 domestic violence cases found that 85 involved physical violence, while 78 involved verbal abuse.

ABU DHABI // Victims of domestic violence need more protection as the lack of a legal deterrent is contributing to the problem, a survey has found.

Of a sample poll of 100 cases reported to the police, more than 85 involved physical violence, while 78 involved verbal abuse.

The survey included a mix of nationalities, said Maj Omar Ibrahim Al Ali, from the Ministry of Interior's Creativity and Leaders Development Centre.

He found that 50 of the cases involved allegations of infidelity, while cultural factors contributed to more than 70 cases.

"It is more social problems, that the man has the power and the woman [does not], and some psychological problems," said Maj Al Ali.

He called for more research into domestic violence and for more collaboration on the issue from government agencies that encounter families - such as the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Family Development Foundation.

"A general recommendation is to unite all efforts in the UAE," Maj Al Ali said. "You have all these parts that need to come together and work together to guard the family."

Major Al Ali presented his study on Tuesday at a two-day conference about the family's role in society. Speakers discussed demographic change, the influence of the media and the role of agencies that provide social services, such as the General Women's Union and Zawaj, the Marriage Fund.

For his presentation, Maj Al Ali collected data from 100 domestic violence cases reported to the Abu Dhabi Police social support centre. Officers try to resolve cases without involving the court system.

His survey found that 73 per cent of the victims were wives and 8 per cent were husbands. Sixteen per cent of the victims were children.

"All family parts could be the victim," Maj Al Ali said.

Ninety per cent of the victims were female and 90 per cent of the aggressors were male.

Couples who had been married for fewer than five years and parents with fewer three children were more prone to violence, Maj Al Ali found.

Of the victims, 46 per cent were housewives. Of the aggressors, 54 per cent worked in the public sector. About 60 per cent of the victims and aggressors were not educated beyond high school.

The lack of a legal deterrent for abusers and insufficient protection for victims contributed to half of the cases, Maj Al Ali determined. A lack of awareness contributed to 65 per cent of them, he said.

At the conference yesterday, at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi, a speaker discussed family violence in Sharjah. The emirate has a free hotline - 800-700 - for reporting child abuse or neglect, said Fatima Al Baloushi, the director of organisational performance at the social services department.

Last year 1,977 calls were received and 239 cases involved truthful allegations, Ms Al Baloushi said. "The majority of which were about one of the parents," she added.

The social services department works with the police to investigate allegations, then provides counselling and other services.

This year, the hotline has received 1,322 calls, Ms Al Baloushi said.

Sharjah also recently established a women's shelter for victims of domestic violence. So far the facility has served four women. There are no national statistics about the prevalence of family violence.

The Dubai Foundation for Women and Children compiles information about the clients at its shelter. In 2010, 22 newly admitted people were victims of domestic violence, according to their latest annual report.

Half were Emirati women, with the rest expatriates. About three quarters of the women did not work. Of those who did, two were in banking, two were maids, one was a teacher and another a police officer.

vnereim@thenational.ae