x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Lock up abusive husbands, experts urge lawmakers

Drafters of new law on domestic violence told violent husbands should be jailed and family members prevented from dropping charges in cases of abuse.

ABU DHABI // Abusive husbands should be locked up or banned from their homes under a new law tackling domestic violence, experts said yesterday. They also called for the law to prevent family members from dropping charges in cases of abuse. The experts, from Jordan, were addressing managers of the new Comprehensive Protection Family Centre, who are drafting the legislation. The centre will provide a safe haven for victims of domestic abuse.

The law will include details on how counsellors should investigate abuse, including the filming of victims when they give statements. Dr Mohammed Tarawneh, a judge and a trustee of a similar centre in Jordan, said: "Our biggest weak point was not having a special law for domestic abuse cases when we opened." His remarks came during a workshop for social officials on protection of domestic abuse victims.

Jordan opened its independent family protection centre in 2000. Laws on domestic abuse were later revised to include issues such as not allowing victims to drop charges against family members. "It is very common for family members to pressure the victims to drop their charges," Dr Tarawneh said. "Sadly, you find a father forcing his daughter to drop sexual harassment charges against her brother, although they're both his children."

Females were sometimes the victims of "legislative abuse", Dr Tarawneh said. He pointed to an example in which a girl becomes pregnant when raped by a relative who is not a mahram, or forbidden from marriage. "The girl is then forced to marry this man. He gets away with his crime by getting a gift in exchange, a wife on a very low price," Dr Tarawneh said. "He would insult her the whole time, reminding her how cheap she was to get pregnant out of wedlock and how he saved her and married her."

In cases where the father, brother or uncle impregnate a woman, under the law she is not allowed to abort. The baby will be registered as a parentless child and placed in an orphanage. Experts said the biggest problem was women who waited too long to report violence against them. "Most of the women I have dealt with only came to us after a minimum of 32 attacks," said Dr Israa Tawalbeh, a forensic pathologist from Jordan's ministry of health.

One woman was choked, locked in a room and left for dead by her husband, Dr Tawalbeh said: "She was able to escape after five days, and it was very obvious that it was a murder attempt. However, the couple then made up and they went home as if nothing had happened." @Email:hdajani@thenational.ae