31/12/2005

Why the delay over battered women's shelter?







Vol XXVIII NO. 286
Saturday
31 December 2005

Can someone, anyone, explain to me why plans for a shelter for battered women are still on the shelf when mothers, wives and daughters are still being abused by husbands and fathers, even as I write?

I don't buy the excuse from the Social Development Ministry - which is headed by a woman minister - that a permit is being denied because the group (Al Sharaka Amnesty International) which has applied for it is not registered with the ministry.

I think there are more sinister forces out there who do not want to see women given a choice, a safe haven to turn to when life becomes too miserable to bear and the walls of a horror house they are forced to live within become too suffocating.

In our society, a woman has no other place than her father's or her husband's house - or her grave.

Any woman living outside the parental or marital home is seen as a source of shame and an object of suspicion.

Women are continuously monitored, least they decide to take charge of their own affairs and bend some already twisted rules.

It is sad that in a country which has gone a long way to give women equal rights, including free access to education and the right to vote or stand in parliamentary or municipal elections, women still lack so much when it comes to protection from domestic abuse within their own homes.

It is the norm for families and friends not to get involved in family disputes, even when they turn violent - even when bones are broken and spirits are crushed.

With family and friends turning away and refusing to interfere, the problem is compounded by the lack of a written family law and penalties to punish those involved in domestic abuse, though parliament has at last taken up the cause.

Even doctors say they can't do much when women are admitted to hospital with broken bones and bruises, when the women themselves are too afraid to press charges because they know it won't get them anywhere and may bring them more trouble when they go back to the hell called home.

What is better, a temporary shelter for abused women, which gives them a chance to clear their heads and seek a permanent solution to their suffering away from threats, or continued abuse simply because they have nowhere to turn for protection?

The choice is simple and is obviously in the hands of the Social Development Ministry, which should come up with a solution matter quickly, since family affairs come its umbrella.

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