The “Himaya” organization, which was established to protect abused women, recently held a course for 20 women on how to package gifts and accessories. The women who ranged from 20 to 45 years of age and came from different backgrounds underwent a four-day training course.
Himaya, which caters to over 50 families, is prominent for focusing on abuse, protecting the victims and helping them through rehab programs.
This type of news would not have been published a decade or two ago. It was taboo to focus on such issues, and, if you did, there would be heavy criticism from the “paragons of virtue”.
“No, our society is not like that of the West!” a man claimed after hearing about the plight of women suffering at the hands of their monstrous husbands. In those days, at every level there was denial of any wrongdoing. However, women could not take it any longer. They enlisted the help of their own gender in the media who brought to light horrific cases of the abuse of women and children. This news spread throughout the media, and talk shows across the Gulf focused on the issue.
People asked for legislation to safeguard the rights of women, provide them with security and safety and help them carry on with their lives.
Social welfare organizations joined in asking for protection. Seminars and classes were held to apprise women of how to confront and contain not only abusive husbands but fathers and brothers as well. Using the “Mahram” excuse, these men would harass their womenfolk and often subject them to beatings. Due to tribal or other social restrictions, women found it difficult to make their plight public. Even a woman’s own family would be horrified if she dared to utter a word against her husband, brother or even her son.
And on several occasions, when these hapless women protested to the police they were asked to return to their homes. There were no shelters, hotlines, or “Big sister” organizations existing at that time.
But that was in the past. Society is waking up – albeit slowly. We now have social welfare organizations, voluntary helplines, and citizens’ assistance in society. They will not tolerate such behavior any more.
Today, the young Saudi woman who in most cases is more knowledgeable, better educated and motivated has picked up the cudgel.
She will no longer be tolerant of mental, verbal or physical abuse.
She is better informed and knows her rights.
She is also encouraged by the reforms taking place around the country. There are organizations ranging from Human Rights to Women’s Help which will assist her. Yes, there is still some bureaucracy which delays matters, but there is now hope.
There should, however, be a legal framework for assisting victims of abuse. The courts are not very sympathetic, but the Minister of Justice, Mohammad Al-Eissa is determined that these and other women must get their legal rights.
The government has made it clear that women are an integral part of the country’s development and are going to play a bigger role. To do this they have to be on an equal level with men. And men too have to be kind and considerate.
Fourteen hundred years ago the Holy Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) said: “The best among you is he who is best to his womenfolk.”— The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org