Family Violence

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According to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),

Family violence is one of the most insidious forms of violence against women. It is prevalent in all societies. Within family relationships women of all ages are subjected to violence of all kinds, including battering, rape, other forms of sexual assault, mental and other forms of violence, which are perpetuated by traditional attitudes…

States… should ensure that laws against family violence and abuse, rape, sexual assault and other gender-based violence give adequate protection to all women, and respect their integrity and dignity.

In conservative societies like Oman, very few cases of family violence against children or women, or even migrant domestic workers, are recorded.  Yet according to testimonies that the Omani Centre for Human Rights has heard, based on a small survey of Omani women and girls, although the authorities’ response to any violence toward women is “sort of reasonable” there are no instances of violence against children having been reported.

Perhaps Omani law, with all its glaring deficiencies, is responsible for this situation, since it contains no provisions to protect women from domestic violence (whether at the hands of fathers, brothers or husbands), and there are no laws to protect children.

The revised Omani Penal Code fails to provide safeguards to prevent domestic violence and control violent behaviour by parents toward their children. Article 44 states:

An action committed in good faith in enjoyment of a lawful right or in performance of a lawful duty shall not be deemed a crime.  It shall be deemed enjoyment of a right when:

(a) parents and those in loco parentis chastise under-age children within the limits recognised by Sharia or statute law.

Domestic violence in Oman is thought to be worse in rural areas and outside the main cities, as custom and tradition allow nothing to be reported to the authorities, and any kind of domestic violence against women or children is treated as a private family matter.  This is what makes the law so vague, inadequate and obscure, and prevents proper, clear legislation being passed.  It simply invites continuing violation of women’s and children’s rights. 

Moreover, the law ultimately has the pernicious effect of reinforcing the culture of male dominance by giving it the state’s blessing and letting customary practices and family violence take precedence over rights.  The country’s statutory law is not only creating generations of women and children who are ignorant of their rights, but is itself denying them their rights.  

And this brings us back to the dreadful fact that Oman is ruled by a corrupt, totalitarian regime, and lacks any semblance of a state of laws and institutions where children and women are treated fairly and not regarded as lower-class citizens.

What do you think?  How can women and children be protected from domestic violence?