Friday, July 8, 2011

Domestic Abuse Around The Globe

Domestic violence is a global phenomenon, and while in America we have institutions whose goals are set on preventing domestic violence, some other countries aren’t as fortunate.  One such country where domestic violence isn’t depicted as a severe problem is Lebanon.  Lebanon is part of the Arab world where domestic violence is considered a family law.  This family law means that all domestic violence cases are governed by the religious courts, and not state courts.  Recently, Lebanese supporters took to the streets regarding a bill that would make domestic violence a crime punishable by the government.  This Lebanese law, while not in effect yet, could create quite a shockwave, in a region known for neglecting women and their rights. 

In the Asian-Pacific region of the globe, they experience many of the same struggles.  A report by UN Women claimed that half the populations of women in the Asian-Pacific region have experienced physical and sexual violence.  The report also stated that a third of respondents thought it was sometimes acceptable for a man to beat his wife.  Women in this region of the globe are under-represented in government and only 8 out of the nineteen countries explicitly criminalize marital rape.  

Many women in the eastern hemisphere are products of their culture. In both regions discussed above, it is extremely difficult for women to escape acts of violence in their homes because of the rigid patriarchal society in which they live.  Different cultures approach the issue of domestic violence through different lenses.

Islam is the predominant religion in Lebanon and even the government is influenced by its teachings.  In Islam’s holy book it describes particular ways where violence against a spouse is acceptable without moral or lawful consequences.  This has been a large influence in why women in Lebanon are revolting; to change the way the government depicts the issue of domestic violence.  An Islamic scholar, Ahmad Shafaat said, “If the husband beats a wife without respecting the limits set down by the Qur'an and Hadith, then she can take him to court and if ruled in her favor she has the right to apply the law of retaliation and beat the husband as he beat her”.  If you can change the culture, you can change the person. 

The Asian-Pacific regions dilemma is more concerning, since the women have little say in any government or familial issues.  The way the culture runs is similar to the Lebanese culture except small villages or towns may not have a formal government to enforce any domestic violence laws.  Both of these regions, while different in customs, have similar values and cultures. To us it may seem unsettling, but to many these actions are ingrained and accepted as a normal part of culture.  

Scott Anderson / Communications Intern