Saudi Arabia – Domestic Violence Cases Up in 2016 – Report
Date: May 16, 2017
By LULWA SHALHOUB | 26 April 2017
JEDDAH: Lack of firmness in dealing with domestic violence and child abuse cases caused reported incidents to rise by 18 percent and 19 percent respectively in 2016, a senior member of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) told Arab News.
A new NSHR report that reviewed cases from 2016 says it received 366 cases of domestic violence against women, up from 295 in 2015. Child abuse cases increased from 154 in 2015 to 188 in 2016.
“There’s an increase in domestic violence cases despite the existence of a law that protects children from abuse,” said NSHR senior member Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen, adding that women and girls tend to be the main victims of abuse.
Regarding child abuse, cases of 80 boys and 180 girls were reported, 118 of whom were abused by their fathers.
“The Ministry of Labor and Social Development unfortunately isn’t activating the two laws” of protection from abuse for adults and children,” Al-Abideen said. “We hear about abuse cases, but we don’t see firmness in implementing the laws.”
Personal affairs cases, including male guardians withholding women’s official documents, have dropped from 151 in 2015 to 135 in 2016.
“In the majority of these cases, women are violated by their current or ex-husbands,” said Al-Abideen, adding that 2016 saw 44 complaints from wives against their husbands and 37 from divorcees.
In only eight cases, men complained against their ex-wives in cases where she stopped him from seeing his children.
In 2016, 62 cases of legal system abuse were reported, compared to 37 cases in 2015. “Those include complaints against judges, procrastination in issuance of verdicts in lawsuits,” Al-Abideen said.
The NSHR lists cases including physical and psychological abuse, denying a female’s rights in marriage and education, sexual molestation and confiscating their salaries under the domestic violence umbrella.
Those affected approach the NSHR, which investigates the cases and verifies the evidence provided, from medical reports to police records.
“We try to reconcile between the two conflicting parties,” said Al-Abideen, adding that the NSHR first communicates with the violator before referring the victim to a shelter home.
“We can refer violence victims to shelter homes under the supervision of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, according to the victim’s wishes. We can then give them guidance to seek legal action in case the reconciliation failed.”
In 2013, the Saudi Cabinet passed unprecedented legislation that criminalizes domestic violence.
The legislation holds law-enforcement agencies accountable for investigating and prosecuting domestic violence cases, which police previously dealt with as a private domestic matter. The hotline 1919 has been established to report suspected abuse.