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The battle against domestic abuse in Saudi Arabia

The social services department in Jazan is investigating the case of a boy who was reportedly severely battered by his father. A picture of the boy’s savagely lacerated skull figured prominently in a local paper. The newspaper report said that the social services are coordinating with the health authorities in this particular case. Meanwhile, it is of some relief to people in the Kingdom that social media continues to expose incidents of violent behavior, illegal acts and other travesties of justice. 

The mainstream media has to follow suit and write more about these violations, because ignoring such human rights abuses will not only result in a loss of readership but in a greater loss to our society. In the Jazan boy’s case, we await the results of further investigation. If the father is proven to be guilty, he should be given a severe punishment which will act as a deterrent to others.

There have been many social media reports of children being subjected to all sorts of abuse and being forced by their guardians to suffer silently with no official avenues of escape. Some children have been killed and what is even more shocking is the leniency of the court in its rulings against the perpetrators of such criminal acts.

A school teacher told me: “We are hiding our heads in the sand and pretending we are a perfect society but the truth is we are not”. She stressed the need for laws to protect children from abusive parents especially those who are addicted.

There have been numerous conferences held to address the issue of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia. It is about time we implement the recommendations of our social scientists and our educators who call for swift action and clear-cut laws that do not allow the perpetrators of violence against children to escape punishment through wasta (nepotism) or biased court rulings. Experts stress the need for special training for school teachers to help them recognize domestic abuse and provide the necessary protection and support for abused children. The role of teachers should also be strengthened with better skills to enable them to detect abnormal behavior and identify the psychological problems of abused children. It is crucial to train more professional mentors and more qualified educators who can provide better attention and care. 

Most important of all, parents should be held accountable. Those who abuse their children should not be granted legal custody of them. The state should provide safe havens and proper care for vulnerable and innocent  children who are deprived of the basic rights of a safe environment and the hope for a better life. 

Police stations should also include personnel qualified to deal with domestic violence. However, in a society where the dice is heavily loaded against women, this is a tougher battle. Even immediate family members are reluctant to interfere, and most families continue to be in a denial mode.    

As a society, we need to recognize our failures in order to find solutions for our social ills. Cases of child abuse are on the rise and we need to face up to the challenge. We must not forget that behind every case of an abused child is an abusive parent. Social scientists complain that in most cases abused wives are returned home to enraged husbands who inflict further violence on them for having dared to complain. 

Meanwhile, civil society in the Kingdom continues to battle bureaucracy in order to push for tougher measures that can provide better protection for children and women in Saudi homes. 

– The writer is Editor-at-Large. Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena


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