Sunday, February 17, 2008

Beating up women in Bahrain

Why women 'are suffering silently'

WOMEN aged 31 to 40 and who have been married for six years or more are the most likely victims of domestic violence in Bahrain, a study has revealed.

Victims who keep silent can also develop physical illnesses such as ulcers, high blood pressure and diabetes, according to a specialist.

The study found more than 75 per cent of domestic violence victims did not report abuse until after more than 10 years of marriage.

Their main reasons for keeping silent were not wanting to break up the family, a feeling of powerlessness and a fear of losing their children and their family.

"The silence period is getting longer and longer and this is causing a lot of damage in the family," said Batelco Centre for Family Violence Victims president Dr Banna Bu Zaboon, a clinical psychologist.

"Because she keeps silent it affects her psychologically and socially.

"She will get psychosomatic illnesses such as ulcers, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

"The majority coming to me at the centre have psychosomatic illnesses in addition to the pain of physical violence - so it's affecting them like a disease."

The study of 450 married and divorced women attending the centre was conducted between August 2005 and May 2006.

The majority of them (223) were aged between 31 and 40 years, almost a quarter were 21 to 30, 90 were 41 or above and 27 were aged 20 and under.

The majority of them (270) were married for six years or more, while 100 were married for three to six years.

Eighty clients had been married for two years or less.

Most of the women had between two and four children. While 64 had one child each, 33 had between five and eight children and the rest didn't have any.

The majority were educated to high school level or below (338), while 103 women had a university education and nine were postgraduates.

The majority of the women's husbands were educated to secondary level and below (356), 84 men were educated to university level and 10 were postgraduates.

A total of 134 women had a monthly income of BD400 or less, while 57 had BD401 or more.

The majority of women (259) had no formal income and less than a half (191) were employed outside the home.

The majority of husbands were employed, with 208 in skilled work and 206 in unskilled. Thirty-six were unemployed.

The type of abuse included psychological (380), verbal (290) and physical (77), while 30 women were sexually abused.

A total of 380 women said the main reason for the violence was disagreement.

Other reasons included psychiatric illness, infidelity, alcohol or drug abuse, polygamy, jealousy and lack of sexual attention.

"We need to prevent violence through indirect education, such as through the child's upbringing and through the media," said Dr Bu Zaboon.

"I'm proud of Bahraini women. The numbers coming to the centre are increasing day by day and this shows people are starting to talk about domestic violence.

"We are the only centre in the GCC, so Bahrain is ahead.

"In the beginning it was difficult to get Bahraini women to respond, but more are now coming.

"Now we can't cover the number and we need another centre."

Last year, the centre received 534 follow-up and 260 new cases from men, women and children.

The total number of consultations for last year was 1,426. They included cases of violence reported at the centre and through its hotline, as well as through play therapy and courses.

Dr Bu Zaboon revealed details of the study at the opening of a conference entitled Domestic Violence: Causes and Solutions yesterday.

The two-day event is taking place at the Children and Mother's Welfare Society, Isa Town, under the patronage of Her Highness Shaikha Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of His Majesty King Hamad and chairwoman of the Supreme Council for Women.

About 180 people from Bahrain, the GCC, Tunisia and the US are attending the conference, which is organised by the society.

The event looks at the impact of domestic violence on women, families and society in the Bahraini, Arab and international context.

Its aim is to raise awareness of domestic violence and encourage government and civil societies to take action to help prevent the problem and assist victims.

The conference also features a workshop on Anger Management Training to Help Prevent Domestic Violence today. Society general-secretary Shaikha Hind bint Salman Al Khalifa said the conference was being held because domestic violence had become a prominent issue.

She said in the past, cases were only reported to police and the hospital out of need, but now with greater awareness women were now seeking help from NGOs and the council.

"We have to create more awareness to help control anger and encourage people to seek help," she said.

Supreme Council for Women general-secretary Lulwa Awadhi said the judicial system didn't do enough to curb domestic violence and needed to be improved. The media also has an important role to play in raising awareness about domestic violence, she added.


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