|Vol XXVIII||NO. 286|
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.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 281|
Do you miss Bahrain?" This is the question many people ask me day in, day out.
It has only been two months since I have left the home I have lived in all my life, the home of my fathers and theirs' before them.
I don't want to sound ungrateful or unpatriotic, but do you want to hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
I am glad I am out of there. I am enjoying the experience of being free and independent and I am relishing my time off work, during which I can read, write, paint - or just learn to keep house.
For the first time in my life, I am learning how to operate a washing machine, a microwave and an oven, not that we didn't have those commodities in Bahrain.
On the contrary, we had all those gadgets and more, but because we were so pampered and protected by our families, everything was ready for us when we got home or rather to the "hotel", as my mother refers to it.
Being away from home hasn't hit me yet and I really don't know whether I miss Bahrain or not.
It could perhaps be because we have been adopted by Indian friends, who lived in Bahrain for 19 years.
They have been here for eight years, but still love everything Bahraini and it is perhaps down to them that we have not yet felt the pangs of homesickness.
At this point, all I'm sure about is that I miss my immediate family, my mother, sisters, brother and their children and my dear and near friends and relatives.
Life is not the same without them. I cry every time I speak to any of them - and I know it isn't because we are benefiting the telephone companies by running up high bills.
I also closely follow all that is being written about home and still get annoyed when I surf the Internet and read about some of the things happening back there.
My blood boils every time I hear about yet another demonstration or rally. I cringe when I see newspaper headlines and continue to read the same stories I have read over and over again.
But whatever the situation, whether daily occurrences in Bahrain bring me pride or shame, there really is and will never be any place like home. A home is where your heart is and not your house.
l Amira Al Hussaini currently lives with her husband in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 279|
Finally, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. According to Works and Housing Minister Fahmi Al Jowder, 35 per cent of the 1,175 families who will benefit from housing loans worth BD31 million are headed by women.
This is a sizeable proportion, considering that traditionally a woman cannot be seen to live on her own in our society.
Should her marriage fail or her husband die, God forbid, she should automatically return to her parental home.
Shelter is one of the fundamental human rights in the Human Rights Charter, a right many women were denied in the past, simply because they were women.
The fact that they are mothers, with children, parents and other relatives to care for, meant nothing to many decision-makers who believed that a Utopia existed where all men were responsible and provided for their families and ensured that there was a shelter over their heads.
The fact that there are single women out there who are not destined to be married and who have no homes of their own, did not make a difference.
When marriages turn sour, women and their children are usually the first and only victims, with some cruel men actually throwing their families on the street.
With archaic property and housing laws which stipulated that government homes must be in the name of the male head of the family, some women found themselves on the streets with their children.
I have seen with my own eyes what has happened to women turned away from their families' homes and told to fend for themselves, in a world which is not and has never been charitable to divorced and widowed women.
I know of a woman who has been moving apartments every few months for at least 18 years, because every time she applied to the Housing Ministry for a home, her application was turned down because she was not married!
I am delighted to see that women are finally being treated with a little bit of justice and that they will be given nearly a third of housing loans approved by the government.
This will give those women and their children safety, security and peace of mind.
It will go a long way towards ensuring that justice, government support, human rights, independence and dignity are not restricted to men alone.
Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 265|| |
Forget all about our 4,000-year-old Dilmun civilisation, the mystic Tree of Life and the A'ali burial mounds.
Forget about our history and legacy as the Land of Immortality and the enchanting tales of King Gilgamesh and his search for the fabled flower.
Forget modern-day achievements including our global position as the financial hub of the Middle East, the home of the Middle East Grand Prix and a pioneer in ushering in a new democracy and political reforms to the region.
This isn't what Bahrain is famous for today - at least in the part of Canada I now live in!
Only three of the scores of people I have met here over the previous 45 days knew where Bahrain was - and what surprised me most was why.
For the rest of the unwitting souls, here are some of the exchanges I have had:
"Bahrain? Is that in the Bahamas!"
"No. It is in the Arabian Gulf," I reply.
"Oh yes! I know where that is...the Gulf of Mexico," one man, who happened to be very educated, except perhaps in geography, told me.
"Bahrain... I know where that is," said a woman of Italian descent I happened to share my umbrella with, outside a convenience store one cold rainy day.
"It is far away. It is like my Sicily!" she continued.
The first part of her response gave me hope. A lot of hope. The second part left me gasping for fresh air.
"Her Sicily indeed," I hissed, moving as far away from her, leaving the geography buff in the rain.
A handyman from El Salvador, who helped fix my curtains, fared much better.
"Where are you from?" he asked with some authority.
"Bahrain," I replied - exasperated with giving more explanations, thinking that if educated people didn't know where my country was, why would Mr Fix It?
"Oh. Bahrain. Small country. Big problems. Like El Salvador," he said, sending shockwaves down my spine.
Well, he knows, I told myself. There was no need to elaborate. Can we get that curtain rod fixed now please ?
The other three who really knew where Bahrain was had their vested interests.
One was my banker and the other two work in the apartment block we have just moved into.
They wanted to check our legitimacy, so they 'Googled' Bahrain on the Internet and learned all that they needed to know about my country.
"We know all about Bahrain. That is where Michael Jackson is!" was all they could say about home.
Of course. Another feather in the cap.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 258|
Excuse my ignorance but I really don't understand all the fuss over the personal status law. Why is it taking this long to pass a law which is aimed at safeguarding the cornerstone of society, the family unit, stipulating the rights and responsibilities of every member of the family (be it man, woman or child)?
What is wrong with unifying a code of conduct which helps deal with domestic issues in a civilised and organised manner?
Why are some people so opposed to the idea of giving men, women and children their social, legal and religious rights in the form of a written law, which could give people an idea of what their rights and responsibilities are - even if it is only on paper?
We all agree that there are problems in some homes which cannot be solved amicably and which should be taken to another level and we all know how long it takes for our courts to process cases, from petty thefts to gruesome murders.
Divorce, abuse and custody battles take their toll on family life and should be resolved in a systematic manner - not according to the whims of certain individuals.
Why are clergymen so against having a unified written family law in a country like Bahrain, where the population doesn't exceed 700,000 and where the majority of people are Muslim?
And why is the government, which had no reservations in passing the controversial societies and demonstrations and public gathering laws, playing the waiting game and allowing this issue to be blown out of proportion?
It is in the interest of all parties to ensure that families are stable and that people know what their rights and obligations are within the family unit.
I realise the issue isn't as simple as I make it sound. I also understand that there are a few subtle differences in the way clergymen interpret family law in Islam.
But what I can't accept is how can a problem, which has remained unsolved for so long, be blown out of proportion when its declared purpose is to ensure the rights of men, women and children in a state of law.
To all those squabbling factions out there, stop fretting and get down to work. The more time wasted on issuing a law of this magnitude, the more women, children and even men will suffer. Injustice isn't a good feeling to grow up with, not when the next generation is at its receiving end.
Let's set our differences aside and try and settle scores on bigger issues - issues which don't involve breaking homes, slamming of doors and social stigma and scars that the victims of divorce and domestic abuse have to cope with for the rest of their lives.