Saudi Arabia and domestic abuse: Lines between tradition and humanity
It is all very well to write off a social evil as the product of the “religious practice” or the prevailing “traditions”, but we do not stop to contemplate upon who exactly are the executioners of these religious and traditional practices. While tradition is important, and while religious practices should be held sacred, humanity is something which should not be compromised upon, because that is the single most sacrosanct practice, universally.
Saudi Arabia has always had a long history of domestic violence. Again, while the case against domestic violence should be addressed from a gender-neutral point of view, the truth of the matter is, in society so strongly rooted in patriarchy that the violence is more often against the female members of the family than the male members. The head of the household is a man, and in order to keep control of the family as well as to demand obedience, he often resorts to physical violence, as well as other forms of subversion. The problem with this viewpoint is that any form of domestic violence, even physical domestic violence is sanctioned on the basis of the fact that a man must do what he can to keep his family in control. Even if the violence is uncalled for, it is forgiven on the basis of the excuse that the head of the household might just lose his temper once in a while. And it is because of this outlook, that society turns a blind eye to the issue of domestic violence, and its seriousness.
This is not to say that women are exempt from this crime altogether. Sometimes, patriarchy is asserted even more deeply into family values through the way some women behave towards their family members. Violence can occur from both ends, though even statistically speaking, the percentage of women as victims of domestic abuse is far greater than men. Domestic abuse was always a common phenomenon in Saudi Arabia, but it is being covered by the media more diligently now, because social issues have become more important and more relevant in today’s world. However, while these incidents of domestic abuse are being reported, very little action is taken against the people who commit these crimes. The punishments given out by the state are not very seriously taken, since most of the cases of domestic violence are written off as the legitimate right of the man to discipline his wife, his daughter or his sister.
But more importantly, the whole idea of domestic violence rests on a very flawed premise. People often write off domestic law as being condoned by Islamic law, but in reality, it is not condoned by the religion, so much as by the traditions which were followed by people following the religion, and which slowly gone generalized to be called Islamic law. The problem here is also society’s refusal to change and adapt to the changing times. While Saudi Arabia seems to be growing in terms of economy, the mindset also needs to change, and society needs to think for itself, each and every individual needs to think as an independent, free-thinking person of considerable intelligence. It is only with careful introspection and a subsequent change in the way society thinks that the phenomenon of domestic violence will go down in traditionally rigid countries such as Saudi Arabia.