The Global Persecution of Women
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.
”Belarus: Domestic Violence - More than a private scandal,” Amnesty International, 9 November 2006.
The World Health Organization has defined partner violence as any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm, including:
acts of physical aggression, such as slapping, hitting, kicking and beating; psychological abuse such as intimidation, constant belittling and humiliation; forced intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion; various controlling behaviours such as isolating a person from their family and friends, monitoring their movements, and restricting their access to information or assistance.(8)
(8) World Health Organization, World Report on Violence and Health, Geneva, 2002.
”Domestic Violence” from UNIFEM, Violence Against Women – Facts and Figures. Downloaded from http://unifem.org/attachments/gender_issues/violence_against_women/facts_figures_violence_against_women_200611.pdf, 16 Feb. 2007.
Domestic and intimate partner violence involves physical and sexual attacks against women in the home, within the family or within an intimate relationship. Women are more at risk of experiencing violence in intimate relationships than anywhere else.
In no country in the world are women safe from this type of violence. Out of ten counties surveyed in a 2005 study by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 50 per cent of women in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru and Tanzania reported having been subjected to physical or sexual violence by intimate partners, with figures reaching staggering 71 per cent in rural Ethiopia. Only in one country (Japan) did less than 20 per cent of women report incidents of domestic violence . An earlier WHO study puts the number of women physically abused by their partners or ex-partners at 30 per cent in the United Kingdom, and 22 per cent in the United States .
Based on several surveys from around the world, half of the women who die from homicides are killed by their current or former husbands or partners. Women are killed by people they know and die from guns violence, beatings and burns, among numerous other forms of abuse . A study conducted in São Paulo, Brazil, reported that 13 per cent of deaths of women of reproductive age were homicides, of which 60 per cent were committed by the victims' partners . According to a UNIFEM report on violence against women in Afghanistan, out of 1,327 incidents of violence against women collected between January 2003 and June 2005, 36 women had been killed — in 16 cases (44.4 per cent) by their intimate partners .
(6) García-Moreno et al. 2005. WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women. Initial results on prevalence, health outcomes and women’s responses, Geneva: WHO.
(7) Krug et al. 2002. World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva: WHO. 90-91. (8) Krug et al. 2002. World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva: WHO. 93.
(9) Referred to by S.G. Diniz, A F. d'Oliveira. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. 63 Suppl. 1 (1998). 34.
(10) UNIFEM Afghanistan, Julie Lafreniere. Uncounted and Discounted. A Secondary Data Research Project on Violence against Women in Afghanistan. 2006. 31.
”Domestic violence occurs in every Council of Europe member state: Let’s take action together!” Amnesty International, 24 November 2006.
Government officials and many in society do not recognize domestic violence as a human rights violation, but as a private matter, and therefore fail to engage with it as such. There is an acceptance and tolerance of domestic violence within many societies, which directly impact on the ability of women to seek protection and redress.
In many countries domestic violence is not identified as a gender-based crime. Where laws do exist to address domestic violence they are often not implemented: including because relevant authorities are not sensitized and adequately trained, and because sufficient funding is not provided to fulfil governments’ obligations.
Ruth Meena, “Wife Battering,” DPMF Workshop and Conference Proceedings, downloaded from http://www.dpmf.org/democracy-ruth.html, 6 October 2006.
Wife abuse is the most endemic violence against women. Its frequency and magnitude have never been established because it is often under-reported. And yet, this is one of the secret crimes which do not attract the attention of mainstream academics or human rights activists. Domestic violence is kept invisible because of the existing perceptions that women are minors, who have to be disciplined, punished and forced to accept their social position when they attempt to challenge the patriarchal authority. The absence of national data on crimes against women is in itself telling because many states choose not to acknowledge the existence of such crimes. Wife abuse is an expression of the unequal power relationship between men and women and particularly the expression of male power over women. Through domestic violence, women learn the art of submission to male authority, and this is what makes domestic violence a governance issue.
Family violence which affects women in a more negative manner than men is legitimized by the state through the provision of a legal environment which does not punish perpetrators, some of whom are the policy makers at the national level. Many existing cultures have legal, religious and historical practices which reinforce the legitimacy of wife battering and other forms of violence which affect women in their socially constructed ‘private’ life.
Elizabeth Rosenthal, “Study Exposes Extent of Abuse of Women,” International Herald Tribune, 6 October 2006.
An international study has found that violence against women committed by their live-in spouses or partners is widespread, common in both the developed and developing world, as well as in both rural and urban areas.
In interviews with nearly 25,000 women at 15 sites in 10 countries, researchers from the World Health Organization found that rates of partner violence ranged between 15 percent in Yokohama, Japan, to 71 percent in rural Ethiopia.
At six of the sites, 50 to 75 percent of women said they had been subjected to moderate or severe violence in the home. At 13 of the sites, more than a quarter of all women said they had suffered such violence in the past year.
"Violence by an intimate partner is a common experience worldwide," the authors wrote of the findings, which are being published in this week's issue of The Lancet, the British medical journal.
"In all but one setting, women were at far greater risk of physical or sexual violence by a partner than from violence by other people."
The report says that rural areas tended to have higher rates of abuse than cities. But no area was immune.
The study adds an important dimension to a growing body of research on violence toward women, a topic that has been fueled more by emotion than hard data in the past.
Previous studies had focused mostly on developed countries, mostly on the United States, said Claudia Garcia- Moreno, a researcher with the World Health Organization, the study's coordinator.
Because of a serious lack of scientific data on the magnitude of such violence, particularly in poorer countries, "there had been a lot of skepticism about whether it was a serious problem" or just a pet peeve of women's groups, Garcia-Moreno said.
Most partner abuse is hidden, and only a tiny fraction is reported to the authorities.
"We have always known that violence is part of women's lives," said Adrienne Germain, director of the International Women's Health Coalition in New York.
"But when we've talked about it before we were mostly dismissed - in the past we've often heard, 'Prove it. Prove that it's happening in our country.'"
She added, "I cannot emphasize how important this study is, and how crucial it is for the UN to be sponsoring something like this."
The researchers tried to look at the problem for the first time in a broad range of countries, using meticulously designed surveys and statistical techniques. Their work took root more than a decade ago, after organizers of the 1996 International Women's Conference in Beijing rued the lack of hard data on the issue and asked the World Health Organization for help.
For the study, 1,500 interviews each were conducted at sites in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Namibia, Peru, Samoa, Serbia, Thailand and Tanzania. In a few of the countries, researchers selected urban and rural sites for comparison.
The rate of abuse by partners is estimated to be around 20 to 25 percent in the European Union, studies have found, although the problem is reported to the police in only a tiny fraction of cases.
In the United States, national surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that about 25 percent of women said they had been physically or sexually assaulted by a spouse, partner or date. I
n the World Health Organization survey being issued Friday, one-fifth to two-thirds of women interviewed said it was the first time they had ever spoken of the abuse to anyone, Garcia- Moreno said.
The next step is to determine what puts women at risk for violence, the researchers said.
In urban sites like Belgrade or Yokahama, Japan, women were far less likely to have experienced violence from a partner in the previous 12 months - just 4 percent. One explanation, the researchers wrote, was that urban women might be better able to leave an abusive relationship because they often had an independent income and access to shelters for abused women, for example.
At all sites, from Bangkok to rural Peru, the presence of a controlling partner - a man who tried to restrict a woman's movements or was jealous of her outside contacts - was associated with a higher likelihood of abuse.
In the coming months, the researchers will be trolling through the huge data set for more answers.
But in the meantime, Garcia-Moreno said, widespread publicity of the findings in many of the countries has already "really got the ball rolling and made people much more aware of this hidden problem."
Radhika Coomaraswamy, “Some reflections on violence against women,” Daily News (Colombo), 16 August 2001.
Levinson studies 90 societies and found wife-beating to be prevalent in 75.
ALB101495.E, "Albania: Prevalence of domestic abuse of women... (2005 - 2006)," 25 September 2006. Ottawa: IRB, 2006.
Human Rights NGOs have noted that Albanian society is generally patriarchal and follows customary traditions (ibid.; OMCT Apr. 2005, 68). Society generally accepts family violence, viewing it as a private matter (ibid.; AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 4; GADC 13 June 2006). In the April 2006 joint report, GADC and the Albanian Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities state that despite important efforts to raise public awareness of domestic violence since the mid-1990s, these attitudes have changed little over time (Apr. 2006, 5). According to a Professor of History who has written several books on Albania and travels to Albania regularly, Albanian society does not view domestic abuse as an issue of concern (Professor of History 14 June 2006). ...
Human rights organizations reported that statistics on domestic violence in Albania are limited (AI 19 Apr. 2006, Sec. 2; HRDC 26 June 2006; GADC 13 June 2006). Governmental authorities, the police, the courts and physicians are not obliged by law to document the incidence of domestic violence (ibid.). However, according to two Tirana-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on women's issues, the Ministry of Public Order recorded approximately 100 cases of violence against women in 2005, including verbal abuse, sexual violence, deprivation of freedom, forced interruption of pregnancy, harassment leading to suicide, life threatening injury and murder (ibid.; HRDC 26 June 2006).
In its 2006 study on domestic violence in Albania, Amnesty International (AI) estimated that at least one-third of Albanian women had experienced physical violence in their families (AI Apr. 2006). The number may be higher in northern areas (ibid.; UK 12 Jan. 2006, para. 3.10.13). The prevalence of intimate partner abuse has increased since 2001 and affects women of all ages and social groups (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 2).
In April 2006, the Tirana-based Gender Alliance for Development Center (GADC), in conjunction with the Hungarian Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, published a report entitled Domestic Violence: A Presentation of the Existing Situation in Albania. According to the report, the most common form of domestic abuse reported in Albania is psychological violence, followed by physical violence in rural areas and economic violence in urban areas (GADC/Albania Apr. 2006, 21). The joint report also indicates that sexual domestic violence is less frequently reported, although the authors stressed that this was not necessarily an indication its actual prevalence (GADC/Albania Apr. 2006, 21). ...
”Albania,” DOS Report 2005.
Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a serious problem. In traditionally male-dominated Albanian society, social norms and lax police response resulted in much abuse going unreported, and it was difficult to quantify the number of women who were victims of rape, domestic violence, or sexual harassment. According to the Center for Civil Legal Initiative's 2002-2003 media monitoring project, 56 women and girls throughout the country lost their lives as a result of domestic violence and 74 others were seriously injured. Through September the center received 180 complaints of domestic violence. The Women to Women Center, an NGO that operated mainly in the northern part of the country, reported receiving approximately 20 calls per day from women reporting some form of violence.
Many communities, particularly those from the northeastern part of the country, still followed the traditional code—the kanun—under which, according to some interpretations, women are considered to be, and were treated as, chattel. Some interpretations of the kanun dictate that a woman's duty is to serve her husband and to be subordinate to him in all matters.
The law does not specifically address violence against women, although it contains provisions aimed at protecting spouses from domestic violence. In practice the courts have not used this legal tool due to lack of understanding in how to apply the law.
The weakness of legal protections against domestic violence was illustrated by the February 2004 killing of a 21-year-old woman by her father for alleged tardiness and the father's subsequent sentencing to less than two years in prison. The case received much attention from the media and the NGO community, but was not appealed by the prosecutor.
The government did not have programs to combat domestic violence or assist victims. An NGO maintained a shelter in Tirana for abused women, although the facility had the capacity to house only a few victims at a time. The same NGO also operated a hotline that provided advice and counseling to women and girls.
World Organization Against Torture, State Violence in Albania. An Alternative Report to the UN Committee Against Torture. Geneva, World Organization Against Torture, April 2005.
According to research undertaken by a number of such civil society organisations, violence against women occurs mainly within the family. Few cases have been reported in which women have suffered violence by State institutions or organized political groups. Unfortunately, the number of charges laid by women in domestic violence situations is low. There are many reasons why women do not divorce their abusive husbands such as fear from societal pressures, religious beliefs, psychological issues and economic dependence.
Monitoring of the press between 2002-2003 revealed that 56 women and girls throughout Albania have lost their lives as a result of domestic violence, while 74 others have been gravely injured. However, only about 5% of abused women and girls have filed complaints against the perpetrators of domestic violence. …
The low number of legal charges brought by the victims of family violence indicates that violence in the family continues to be considered a private issue by the public and also by the judicial police, who pressure victims not to file complaints. Courts are also a party to creating apathy towards family violence as they choose not to impose strict sentences against the perpetrators. In many cases, the perpetrators are only ordered to pay a fine. These fines only cause further pressure on the family.
”Domestic violence intolerable, say battered women and girls,” IRIN, 13 April 2005.
KABUL, 13 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - The story of Zaynab, (a name adopted to conceal her identity) an 18-year-old mother of five who has taken refuge in a new women’s shelter in the capital Kabul, illustrates how routinely women continue to suffer rights violations in conservative, patriarchal Afghanistan.
She fled her home after refusing to put up with any more beatings from her husband, less than three weeks after giving birth to her youngest son.
“My father forcibly married me to an old man when I was 11 and my husband treated me like a slave over the last seven years,” she said, while sewing a blanket in the shelter, located in an upmarket suburb of the capital.
But Zaynab and the 20 other women she shares the facility with are the lucky few out of millions of destitute Afghan women. The small group have managed to find sanctuary from widespread physical violence, forced marriage, honour killings and other violations in ultra-conservative rural Afghanistan.
Zaynab’s leg was broken when her husband threw her out of a window. The torment ended when she managed to escape from the hospital where she was being treated, leaving her children behind. “This is the new pain I must bear, living without my family, but I had no other option. I knew he would never change.”
“I put on men’s clothes and a turban to hide my long hair and to look like a man, because it is extremely dangerous and difficult for women to travel by themselves,” she added, describing her escape.
Throughout the whole country, there are just four shelters, all in the capital, that are home to more than 100 women and girls. Supported by different agencies and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA), the confidential centres are designed to give protection, accommodation, food, training and healthcare to women who are escaping violence in the home or are seeking legal support due to family feuds.
“Often they are introduced to MoWA by the office of the attorney general or supreme court, while sometimes they come directly to our ministry,” Shakila Afzalyar, a legal officer at the ministry, told IRIN.
All the women IRIN interviewed at the shelter said they had broken no laws, but were fleeing from brutality or forced marriages. Afghanistan’s new constitution guarantees equality before the law for men and women, but the reality, the women point out, is very different.
A girl at the shelter, Paikai, just 12 years old, said she was compelled to marry the brother of her fiancé, who died before marrying her.
“They paid some money and gave a car to my father, but I did not like the man and escaped,” she said. She added that she had heard from a local radio station that there was a women’s affairs ministry in the capital, which heard the complaints of women, “that idea helped me make the final decision.”
“Women are used as a means for settling disputes between two families or tribes,” she said, adding that she did not want to return to her village, where they treated women “like animals”.
“I have nowhere to return to, I like it here, because there is a literacy course and at least I don’t see and hear those arrogant men,” she sighed.
The statistics are worrying, the ministry says. Afzalyar said that up to 20 women and girls were referred to MoWA’s legal department every day, mostly complaining of physical violations and forced marriages.
But space at the specialised shelters is limited. Many of the women who cannot find a place in the four secure hostels in Kabul end up in prison. More than 30 women are currently in jail in the capital, many simply because they have nowhere else to go, women’s rights activists say. “But I think even being in prison is safer than bearing the misery and punishments of violent men at home, at least in prison… one day you leave,” Zaynab said.
”Belarus: Domestic Violence - More than a private scandal,” Amnesty International, 9 November 2006.
"A lot of people consider that violence is a normal part of life, and this attitude needs to be changed". (1)
Violence against women in the family exists throughout Belarus. Women from all social levels and backgrounds fall victim to this form of gender-based violence. Violence against women is an abuse of their basic human rights, including their right to physical and mental integrity, their right to life and their right to equality with men. Throughout the world women are hit, beaten, raped, and in some cases even killed by their intimate partners, while many more endure psychological violence and economic control. The stories they tell differ little from one country to another.
In preparing this report, Amnesty International listened to the accounts given by Belarusian women and analysed the action being taken by the state to support the victims of violence and to prosecute the perpetrators. On the basis of this, the organization makes recommendations about how to combat impunity and better protect and support women.
"I had been married since 1984. He drank, but I should have understood the situation. I took the child and went to my mother’s, because he didn’t just drink dreadfully, he insulted me, beat me. I worked at a factory and once a neighbour called me and said: ‘Raia, he’s going to the factory with an axe!’ He got into the factory and attacked me. It was pure chance that I survived. I still have the scar. It was hell. He had attempted to kill me at the factory not at home, so there was a court case and he got six years. In 1992, he was sent to prison and I stayed alone with the child. After the court case I divorced him. I blamed myself the whole time and when the six years were up I started to live with him again. I registered him in my flat. There was a feeling of fear that grew and grew."
"A short time after we got married he started to go out at night. He didn’t come home, he was having fun. I understood that he had not yet got it out of his system. A wife wasn’t enough for him. We were 21 when we got married. The first time I took my things and went home to mother. He came after me a month later and begged forgiveness and said that it wouldn’t be like that anymore. The second time I was pregnant. He was working and hiding the income from me. It was really difficult financially. Once he came home, there was nothing to eat in the house and he brought himself something and sat down to eat and only thought of himself. I left and went to my mother. He didn’t want me to get pregnant, but again he came and said he was sorry. I decided to forgive him again. Our daughter was born and a short time later I was pregnant again. When I was pregnant he got drunk and bent my arms behind my back. He wanted to go out drinking, but I didn’t let him go out and that is how it all started. He swore at me and called me names."
"The main problem was my former husband’s drunkenness… He beat me up very badly when the child was three months old. He beat me so badly that he broke the bridge of my nose. And as he was doing it, he was holding… And you know the most terrible thing for a mother is when she sees that a child is involved in all this willy nilly, especially when the child is so young… He was holding the child in his arms and beating me… You know it is really terrifying when the child’s clothes are covered in blood and he is laughing and saying: ‘There, you’ll get on your knees now and beg me not to kill you’."
These women had all benefitted from the assistance of the service providers who put Amnesty International in touch with them, but there are thousands more women who do not have access to support and who do not dare to report the violence they suffer to the authorities.
Vera allegedly suffered beatings and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband for 23 years before the violence led to her death in July 2005. Vera married Oleg in 1982 and the couple lived in a three-roomed flat with Vera’s mother and sister. Vera’s sister and mother could hear the sounds of fighting coming from the room where the couple lived, but Oleg put a lock on the inside of the door and locked Vera into the room with him. According to her sister, the police were called numerous times by neighbours who could hear the noise, and each time Vera ’s mother reported the violence. However, threatened by Oleg and fearful of his reprisals, Vera would withdraw the report. Vera’s mother would sometimes try to defend her daughter, but she was also beaten by him. Vera reportedly confided in her sister that Oleg gained sexual enjoyment out of partially strangling her. Vera’s sister knows of four occasions when she ended up in hospital because of the injuries inflicted by her husband. On each occasion, Oleg, a former policeman, checked her into the hospital under a false name. He boasted that he could bribe policemen and medical personnel so that his crimes would not be reported. On 25 July 2005, Vera was found dead in her room with a noose around her neck. On 26 May 2006, Oleg was charged with driving his wife to suicide, a crime which carries a maximum sentence of five years. Vera’s family believe that she was murdered and are contesting the charge.
Amnesty International is concerned that despite measures that have been taken by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to combat domestic violence, Belarus is falling short of its international obligation to protect women’s rights. The very low number of women reporting to the police means that impunity persists for domestic violence. There are insufficient measures and services to protect the victims of domestic violence such as temporary shelters and adequate and safe alternative housing. There is a lack of mandatory government training programmes for police, judges and medical staff, and staff of state crisis centres for women. Key agencies such as law enforcement officers and the courts fail to record cases of domestic violence in a systematic manner and to create reliable and comprehensive statistics disaggregated by sex, indicating the relationship between victim and perpetrator. As a result of a lack of public awareness and support many women are unable to escape the cycle of violence, and some return to violent situations even after the aggressor has been prosecuted and punished because they have nowhere else to go.
“Winnipeg Indo-Canadians discuss family violence," Indo-Canadian Online, 13 Dec. 2006.
Members of Winnipeg's Indo-Canadian community engaged in what they described as a first and difficult meeting Sunday night to discuss family violence in their culture. Community leaders, along with religious elders and counsellors, discussed sensitive subjects such as arranged marriages, spousal abuse and cultural pressures families may face after immigrating to Canada.
"We need to take responsibility if we become aware of it. And nobody wants to take responsibility because they're part of the problem," said Rubi Bedi, who attended the talks on Sunday. "Our elders, our priests ... our churches, our temples — they are all part of the problem. We are all part of it." The Sunday discussion came in the wake of the murders of a number of Indo-Canadian women this fall. In October, Navreet Waraich, 27, was stabbed to death by her husband in their Surrey home. Jatinder Waraich has been charged with second-degree murder.
"Canada: Domestic violence in ethnic communities," Women in the Middle East, No. 45, Nov.-Dec. 2006.
The deaths of three South Asian women in less than two weeks are prompting many more to go public with tales of abuse in the home. Triple the number of people was expected to attend a community forum on domestic violence in Surrey, B.C., Thursday night than organizers originally expected and one local woman's centre said calls to their support line are also on the increase.
"Girls have been walking into our studios with their complaints, with their violence, with their abuse," said Ashiana Khan, the station manager for Radio India who organized the forum. "They did not know how to get help, they did not know where to go, and they did not know who to talk to."
Narinder Rihal, a support worker at Surrey Women's Centre, said part of the challenge in assisting abused women in any cultural community is their reluctance to seek help from strangers. "They are discouraged from seeking help from outside the family," said Rihal. "The family does try to help, but sometimes the family is part of the conflict, they can't always see what the real core issue is. They are trained and raised to believe that if there is a problem within the family it should be talked about within the family."
Kim Bolan, “A-G calls for fight against 'cancer' of spousal abuse. [Attorney-General] Wally Oppal makes plea during forum on domestic abuse,” Vancouver Sun, 3 Nov. 2006.
One by one, Indo-Canadian women stood up to tell tales of being beaten, slapped and threatened with knives and guns, moving a crowd of more than 2,000 people to tears Thursday night.
The forum was organized by Surrey-based Radio India as an emergency community response to three brutal assaults in the last two weeks that left two women dead and one fighting for her life.
The women signed up to speak as they entered the jammed Surrey banquet hall, launching a forum that was later addressed by politicians and social services representatives.
One woman who said she was the mother of two girls told of being beaten by her husband for years before working up the courage to leave.
"I am a survivor of 11 years of physical, mental and verbal abuse," she said. "I was held at knifepoint. I was held at gunpoint."
She said that as in many extended Indo-Canadian families, she was encouraged to put up with the beatings to save face, but she finally left.
"I am here today in one piece and my daughters are as happy as kids can be," she said. "Save your daughters, save your sisters ... if I can do it, you can do it."
Attorney-General Wally Oppal praised the forum organizers and the women who told their stories.
"It is a horrible cancer that at times seems incurable, but it can be cured," Oppal said. "This is an awakening of our collective conscience."
He said prosecutors want to bring wife batterers to justice but women are still too often afraid to testify.
"We are committed to prosecuting the wrongdoers but we need your help," Oppal said. "We need witnesses."
The incidents that prompted the forum included the Oct. 19 shooting of Gurjeet Kaur Ghuman, who was shot in the face in Port Coquitlam by her estranged husband, who then killed himself. She remains in critical condition.
Four days later, the charred remains of pregnant Surrey teacher Manjit Panghali were found along a truck route near the Delta Port.
This past Sunday, 27-year-old Navreet Kaur Waraich, the mother of a four-month-old, was stabbed to death. Her husband Jatinder has been charged with second-degree murder.
Waraich's grieving cousin Mandip Sandhu said she was touched that so many people turned out in response to Waraich's tragic death.
"We cannot bring her back, but maybe we can save another girl," Sandhu said.
She also urged the federal government to expedite the immigration process so Waraich's parents can come from India and take custody of her son. The baby is now in the care of social services.
Waraich's mom and dad are expected to arrive on visitors' visas this weekend to make funeral preparations for their daughter's service on Nov. 12 at Delta's Riverside funeral home.
"We are sorry to be here but it is because someone is killing our sisters and our daughters," Sandhu said. "That is not acceptable any more. We have to stop it.
"We are just asking for justice."
Another woman who has been married for more than 20 years made an impassioned call for an end to the violence in the community.
She said she has stayed with her husband despite being abused for more than two decades.
"Once he gave me such a good slap, it dislocated my jaw," she said.
She tried to explain why she has stayed, but struggled for words. Even when she called police on several occasions, she tried to take the charges back afterwards.
"Your self-esteem is gone. Your love turns to hate," she said.
The women identified themselves at the meeting, but The Vancouver Sun is withholding their names for legal reasons.
Representatives of several social service agencies told the crowd that help is available for women wanting to escape abuse.
Nimi Chauhan, who works with a new agency called Sahara Services Society, said there should be more coordination between available services so women and children do not fall through the cracks.
"And we need to have more culturally sensitive programs," she said.
David Carrigg, “Fear, secrecy and shame. Indo-Canadian community probes domestic abuse,” Vancouver Province, 3 Nov. 2006.
Outraged Indo-Canadians packed into a Surrey hall last night to deal with a rash of violence against Indo-Canadian women.
At least 700 people turned out to hear experts, victims, law makers and police discuss the issue.
"Save your daughters, save your sisters; they carry on the world," said Kuldinder Lehal, a victim of domestic violence who lives in Surrey.
"It's time somebody did something. Everybody needs to wake up. In our community, sometimes they are scared to speak the truth, to be witness against somebody."
Lehal said there is a stigma attached to victims of domestic violence in the Indo-Canadian community.
Lehal said she suffered 11 years of physical, mental and verbal abuse from her Indo-Canadian husband before escaping with her two daughters to a shelter.
She said she would not stay with family members because she feared for their lives.
The brainstorming event at the Bombay Banquet Hall, in the 7400-block 135th Street, was organized by Surrey-based Radio India after three attacks on Indo-Canadian woman in the Lower Mainland, leaving two dead and one critically hurt.
Attorney-General Wally Oppal, who attended the meeting, said earlier in the day there is a cultural component to the attacks.
He said there is an inequality between men and women in Indian culture, citing the dowry system where women are treated as property.
Oppal, who is Indo-Canadian, said boys are treated preferentially to girls.
"The birth of boys is always celebrated," he said on CKNW. "The birth of girls is not always celebrated. It's celebrated in a lot of homes but not in the same way."
When a 10-year-old boy sees his father demeaning his mother, then you know what kind of values and attitudes the child will have, he said.
"He doesn't see girls and women as equals and that's wrong."
Oppal said domestic violence has been around the Indo-Canadian community much longer than gang violence.
He said domestic violence was a problem when he began work in criminal justice more than 35 years ago.
Narinder Rihal, a support worker at Surrey Women's Centre, said part of the challenge in assisting abused women is their reluctance to seek help from strangers.
"They are discouraged from seeking help from outside the family," said Rihal. "The family does try to help, but sometimes the family is part of the conflict, they can't always see what the real core issue is. They are trained and raised to believe that if there is a problem within the family it should be talked about within the family."
Rihal said women often believe that they can't seek help from people outside their own culture because they won't be understood.
"That's not true," Rihal said. "Domestic violence is not a South Asian problem, it is a problem globally."
Kamilla Singh, spokeswoman for Women Against Violence Against Women, said domestic violence occurs in all cultures.
Singh said women's centres and transition houses are struggling to keep up with demand from abused women.
On Oct. 20, a nurse from Coquitlam, Gurjeet Kaur Ghuman, was riding in a car with her estranged husband when he shot her in the head and then killed himself.
Days later, the burned body of Manjit Panghali was found in Delta. She was four months pregnant.
No one has been arrested in her death.
Last Sunday, Navreet Waraich, the mother of a four-month-old boy, was stabbed to death.
Her husband, Jatinder, has been charged with second-degree murder.
David Carrigg, ”Victims of Violence,” Vancouver Province, 3 Nov. 2006.
Navreet Kaur Waraich
Navreet Kaur Waraich was stabbed to death at home in Surrey Oct. 29 as her four-month-old son looked on.
The 27-year-old was allegedly killed by her husband, Jatinder Singh Waraich, who was arrested at the scene. Jatinder has been charged with second-degree murder and remains in custody.
Waraich had been contacting her family in India to tell them she was having problems with her husband in Canada.
Pregnant Surrey teacher Manjit Panghali disappeared on Oct. 18. Her burned body was found alongside Deltaport Road five days later.
Police are still investigating the killing. Panghali, 30, was a mother of a 3 1/2-year-old daughter and popular teacher at Cloverdale's North Ridge Elementary School.
Gurjeet Kaur Ghuman
On Oct. 19, Port Coquitlam resident Gurjeet Kaur Ghuman was shot in the face by her estranged husband, Paramjit Singh Ghuman.
The pair were in a vehicle stopped on front of a schoolbus when the shooting occurred.
Paramjit Singh Ghuman had previously been charged with assaulting Ghuman and was on bail at the time of the attack.
He fatally shot himself after shooting Ghuman. The 40-year-old mother of two remains in hospital in critical condition.
On July 30, 2003, Rajinder Singh Atwal stabbed his daughter Amandeep to death as the pair were driving near Prince George.
Atwal was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 16 years.
”Domestic abuse hidden among Indo-Canadians: forum,” CBC News, 3 Nov. 2006.
More than 1,500 people heard harrowing stories of domestic beatings of women in the Indo-Canadian community at a forum in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday night.
They packed a banquet hall to talk about the problem, which has gained urgency in recent weeks after two killings and an attempted murder, all involving Canadian women of South Asian descent. Radio India, a Punjabi radio station based in Surrey, hosted the forum.
Several women said isolation, shame and cultural barriers have hidden the problem of domestic violence in the community. Political leaders, including B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal, listened to their stories and promised to take action.
Babita Chumber, who spoke at the forum, said her six-year marriage started with high hopes but quickly became a nightmare.
"My husband would spit on me, kick me, emotionally degrade me. I would go to work with bruises. Pieces of hair would be out of my head and I would cover it up because of the shame that is involved," she said.
Kavinder Lehal said she was beaten and threatened with knives and a gun during her 11-year marriage. Lehail said many South Asian women stay in abusive relationships out of fear they will bring shame to their families.
"You're not shaming your husband or his family. He shames his family when he raises his hand on you. He shames his family when he beats you up," she said.
Oppal, who is Indo-Canadian, said the gathering shows the south Asian community is coming to terms with a problem that has been hushed up for years.
"Most of this is acknowledging the fact this exists. There is denial in the community, face-saving," he said.
Oppal said he hopes the forum, where so many women told their stories, will give others the courage to come forward.
In the last two weeks, two married Indo-Canadian mothers have been found dead in the Lower Mainland. Navreet Kaur Waraich was stabbed to death in Surrey, and Manjit Panghali's burned body was found along a highway near a busy container terminal in Delta.
In another incident, Gurjeet Kaur Ghuman was shot in the face by her estranged husband in Port Coquitlam. He died after turning the gun on himself. She remains in critical condition.
"Witnesses tell of blood, cries," 24 Hours, Vancouver, 1 Nov. 2006.
The two women who recently witnessed a gruesome scene unfold in their basement spoke publicly yesterday abiut Navreet Waraich's last moments.
Waraich, described as a "fun-loving mother" to her baby boy, was stabbed to death Sunday afternoon in what police believe is a case of doemstic violence.
The residents living upstairs, TRajinder and Shalinder Basran, told media yesterday that when they heard shouting and noises coming from the basement suite, they knew they had to intervene.
The women pounded on the door, and were confronted by a man with a knife. They could see Waraich lying in a pool of her own blood, coughing and pleading in Punjabi to "save me," said Tajinder.
Tajinder then ran upstairs to call police while her mother convinced the suspect to go outside and sit with her on a bench until police arrived.
"The outcome obviously wasn't good, but it was our first priority to go and help her," said an emotional Tajinder.
"Had she survived, it would have been a bit easier to deal with," but because of the tragic outcome, the pair is now plagued with thoughts of waht else they could have done to help, she added.
Surrey RCMP commended the Basrans for coming to the aid of the dying woman despite danger to themselves, and encouraged anyone who witnesses or is a victim of domestic violence to call police.
Jatinder Wasraich of Surrey has been charged with second-degree murder.
Petti Fong, “Politician calls spousal abuse 'cancer' among Indo-Canadians,” Globe and Mail, 1 Nov. 2006.
SURREY, B.C. — Three cases of assaults on Indo-Canadian women, two of which resulted in their deaths, are causing uneasiness in the community, including a call from B.C.'s Attorney-General Wally Oppal to bring the issue into the open to save lives.
"Spousal violence is an issue of the community at large. But it's more acute in the South Asian community," Mr. Oppal said.
"This has really been a cancer in the Indo-Canadian community."
In the past two weeks, deadly attacks against Indo-Canadian women have shocked the community and its leaders into action.
Navreet Waraich, a young mother of a four-month-old boy, was fatally stabbed Sunday in Surrey. Her husband Jatinder was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
Coquitlam nurse Gurjeet Kaur Ghuman was shot in the head on Oct. 20 while riding in a car with her estranged husband Parmajit, who then fatally shot himself. Ms. Ghuman remains in serious condition in hospital.
A case that has shaken the community was the brutal killing of pregnant Surrey teacher Manjit Panghali, whose burned body was found in Delta on Oct. 23.
There have been no arrests made in that case.
Mr. Oppal, who is Indo-Canadian, said everyone has a responsibility to be a resource for men and a voice to women about where to seek help.
"I don't like the cliché of ownership, but I think it's appropriate in this case that it's time to send out the message that this is clearly, clearly wrong."
Formerly a judge, Mr. Oppal said he heard case after case of domestic violence. While admitting he's painting with a broad brush, he said some aspects of the Indo-Canadian culture encourage men to discriminate against women, including favouring male infants and dowry payments to grooms' families. Zzzz "When something like these incidents happen, it hits home and you wonder what is going on. One murder is too many," said Raminder Dosanjh, an activist.
On Sunday night, after Ms. Waraich's murder, phone lines were flooded by callers to a Surrey radio station with women seeking advice on where to find help.
Radio India business manager Ashia Khan said the response was so overwhelming that the call-in show repeated the topic of domestic violence the next day and again received dozens of calls from women who did not want to go on the air.
"These women callers were off-line saying they were going through the same abuse. They tried to get help but faced more threats and were afraid that if their family found out, they would be beaten up," Ms. Khan said.
The station is holding a forum tomorrow in Surrey and has invited community leaders and social service agencies to participate in getting the message out to people about domestic violence.
At Surrey's Guru Nanak temple, president Balwant Singh Gill said the recent violence has shaken members and forced many to confront their role as leaders.
"We can have lectures, some counselling available. We can get some people to hold seminars and provide support like clothing or food or funding," he said yesterday. "The temple leaders cannot do everything by ourselves, but we can do something and now we must." A woman who wouldn't give her name at the Surrey Women's Centre yesterday said abusive husbands deliberately isolate their wives from support groups.
The parent of young children said she is separated, but still fearful of her husband and his family.
"Indian women are treated like dogs, not allowed to talk or even get jobs so they can have some independence," she said. "I hear about what happened to those other women, I get very afraid because I know there is a lot more of that happening that no one knows about."
Social-services organizations like the women's centre, which has a two-year-waiting list for long-term counselling, have been doing outreach work at temples and festivals.
Counsellor Narinder Rihal said the need grows each year and there are not enough Punjabi-speaking counsellors to meet the demand.
A new initiative started by the centre is to reach out to seniors in the Indo-Canadian community. Ms. Rihal said volunteers, staff and counsellors at the women's centre recognize that it will be senior members of households who can raise the issue.
"The seniors hold a lot of respect in the household. Going to them and talking about the issues is how the topic can be raised in the home in a way that we can't," Ms. Rihal said. "If they are more comfortable speaking about these issues, it will allow the issue to be discussed."
Tajinder Basran and her mother Shalinder, who lived upstairs from the Waraich family, tried to save the injured woman.
When they heard screaming coming from the basement suite where Navreet lived, the two women ran down to help and were confronted by a man with a knife.
Ms. Waraich was bleeding.
She was saying "Please save me" and at the same time she was coughing up blood, Ms. Basran said, as her daughter wiped tears from her eyes while reliving the terrifying confrontation.
Kim Bolan, “Slain Surrey mom third to be targeted,” Vancouver Sun, 31 Oct. 2006.
Young woman's slaying was the third time in two weeks that a local Indo-Canadian woman was targeted for death
Slain Surrey mom Navreet Kaur Waraich had been calling her family in India every week to tell them she was being mistreated here in Canada.
But they were devastated to get the news Monday that the 27-year-old had been stabbed to death in the Newton basement suite she shared with her husband and four-month-old baby.
Waraich's slaying was the third time in two weeks that an Indo-Canadian woman on the Lower Mainland was targeted for death.
Pregnant Surrey teacher Manjit Panghali was murdered and her body burned beside a Delta road last week. Police are still investigating and refuse to say if there is a suspect in the killing.
And on Oct. 19, Port Coquitlam resident Gurjeet Kaur Ghuman, 40, was shot in the face by her estranged husband Paramjit Singh Ghuman, who then fatally shot himself. She is in critical condition.
The three incidents have alarmed community leaders, who say more needs to be done to deal with violence against women.
An emergency forum on the problem will be held by Radio India Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Surrey's Bombay Banquet Hall.
Attorney-General Wally Oppal is also extremely concerned about the recent violence in his community.
"This is a horrible social problem and criminal problem that our community has done nothing about," Oppal said. "We have simply closed our eyes. It has horrible origins. It is the systemic demeaning of women."
Waraich's distraught father, Dilbag Singh Gill, said in an interview from Amritsar, India, that he wants to come to Canada to deal with his daughter's funeral and care for her infant son.
"Every night she was being beaten there," Gill said.
He said his daughter, who had moved to B.C. two years ago after her marriage, did not want to go to police out of fear she would cause trouble for her in-laws.
"My daughter said to me 'I am a very fine wife. Why is this happening?' "
Waraich's husband Jatinder, a Richmond cab driver, was arrested and was to appear in Surrey provincial court Monday.
Her younger brother Manjit Singh said the family in India really wants to get custody of her baby now.
"We need her son because he is the only thing we have left of her," he said from India. "I loved my sister so much. What can we now do without her?"
Surrey RCMP Cpl. Roger Morrow said police were called to Waraich's rented home in the 7000-block of 123 B Street about 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The RCMP said the case is one of domestic violence and that the victim succumbed to multiple stab wounds.
Oppal said some within the Indo-Canadian community are so concerned about public reputation that they don't want to get help when there is a problem.
"Let's just solve it within the house. Let's not get anyone else involved," Oppal said, describing a common attitude. "Our temples have to get involved in this."
Radio India owner Maninder Singh Gill organized this week's forum after dozens of young women called his station in recent weeks claiming they are being abused in their homes but have nowhere to turn for help.
"We will invite Sikh, Hindu and Muslim leaders," Gill said. "We have got to do something."
Gill has put up a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the high-profile Panghali murder.
Activist Raminder Dosanjh, a founder of the India Mahila Association, said the three cases demand a community response.
"There is violence in every community, but to have three cases in two weeks' time of women being murdered or attempted murder, we have to do something very fast," said Dosanjh.
"All three of these women have children. We can't sit back and do nothing." Dosanjh said the police and the courts have to do more to solve the cases and send a strong message that violence against women will not be tolerated. She noted that in the high-profile murder of Canadian Jassy Sidhu in India, RCMP here have done little to investigate the roots of the plot to kill the young Maple Ridge hairdresser, who married in Punjab against her B.C. family's wishes.
Narinder Rihal, who works at the Surrey Womens' Centre said women in all cultures experience violence. But she said there are unique problems for immigrant women, who may not know how to access services or feel compelled not to report violence to the police.
And in the Indo-Canadian community women are "raised not to reach outside the culture for help," Rihal said.
"So they try to resolve these problems within the family," she said.
The Surrey Womens' Centre deals with about 2,000 women a year from all cultures.
Rihal said she thinks there should be outreach workers to get the message out that help is available.
"The first thing we need to do is educate the women," Rihal said.
Ingrid Peritz, "Montreal woman slain after threats from ex-lover," Globe and Mail, 17 Oct. 2006.
MONTREAL -- For the second time in three days, a woman has died in a domestic altercation in Montreal, and a man in her life is a prime suspect.
Melissa MacDonald, a 32-year-old daycare worker described as a "sweetheart" who loved children, didn't show up at work yesterday morning. Co-workers rushed to her home because she had been complaining that her ex-boyfriend, with whom she had just broken up, had been threatening her.
They found Ms. MacDonald's basement apartment, in Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grâce district, surrounded by police.
Late last night, police identified the victim as Ms. MacDonald. She was found inside her home where she had been stabbed repeatedly. She died in hospital.
"She's a very responsible woman. When she didn't show up for work, I knew that something was wrong," said Pascale Kadoch, director of the Nif-Naf daycare where Ms. MacDonald was an educator.
"She told me she was being threatened [by her ex-boyfriend]," Ms. Kadoch said. "We told her to go to police, but she never called the cops on him; she was too scared of him,"
Ms. MacDonald had told the man last week that she was seeing someone else, but he didn't accept it, Ms. Kadoch added.
When Montreal police arrived at the apartment, they were confronted outside by a knife-wielding man in his 40s. The officers shot him after he charged at them, according to a spokesman for the Quebec provincial police, who have taken over the investigation.
The man was reported in stable condition in hospital. Police said he had a connection with the victim, but wouldn't elaborate.
The slaying came on the heels of a gruesome domestic dispute on Saturday. A woman and her two daughters were killed in what police believe was a case of triple murder and attempted suicide in a home in Montreal's suburban Beaconsfield borough.
The woman's husband, Dragolub Tzokovitch, a psychologist who is in critical condition, is being investigated as the suspect.
Despite the two slayings, spousal violence is down in Canada and family homicides are becoming even rarer, researchers say. But such violence still takes a toll on women across the country and a common theme is separation with their partner.
"These men need to have control over the woman, in order to exist, to be somebody," said Myriam Dubé, a researcher on domestic violence at the University of Montreal. "There's often an enormous issue of control by the man over his partner. He tends to see them as objects rather than full-fledged people who have their own right to exist."
Anna Clairmont, “Anna will never get over what happened to her,” Hamilton Spectator, 14 Feb. 2006.
The boyfriend who raped and tortured Anna has been in prison more than a year. Yet his hold over her remains firm.
That's how it works. The domestic abuse continues long after the beatings stop. After the last punch, the last insult, the last sexual assault, the fear lingers on. So, too, the self-doubt.
And while she tries, every day, to cope with the past, Anna is also dreading the future. On Thursday, she will learn if she is being deported back to Hungary, where the brothers of her abusive boyfriend are waiting to kill her.
Karoly Csorom is serving a 15-year sentence in Canada right now for keeping Anna (not her real name) against her will, tying her naked to a cellar post, sexually assaulting and mutilating her with a kitchen knife before forcing her to eat her own flesh.
And now it is Anna who may be sent to her death because Csorom never came through on his promise to file her refugee papers.
The police officers who arrested Karoly believe the death threats against Anna will be carried out if she is deported. The Crown attorney who prosecuted the case believes it as well. Members of the Csorom family are criminals well known to the police in Hungary. They are not above anything, it seems.
How does Anna survive all that?
How does she get out of bed every morning, make breakfast for her four-year-old daughter, tidy her house and breathe in and out?
"What constantly amazes me is the resilience of women, their strength," says Lenore Lukasik-Foss, director of the Sexual Assault Centre in Hamilton. "How are you not just lying down and crying?"
The amount of healing needed by a woman who has been sexually assaulted or abused by a partner depends on the extent and nature of the abuse, says Lukasik-Foss.
One can only imagine what it would take for Anna to heal. And she can't even truly begin that process while her next crisis -- the possibility of deportation and revenge by Csorom's brothers in Hungary -- is looming.
Victims who fear more abuse in the future can't properly deal with the past. They don't have the time or the clarity of mind.
"They go into coping mode and healing is a luxury," says Lukasik-Foss. "They are too busy just living. They have not just the memories of what happened, but the possibility of what could still be."
That Anna has a child makes those possibilities even more terrifying. Anna survived her initial abuse, but now her daughter could be deported. Her daughter could become a victim.
That, says Madora Uppal, interim director of Martha House shelter for women and children, is the whole phenomena of "revictimization." A woman who has survived abuse at the hands of a man is then often victimized again by a system. Anna is being victimized by the Ministry of Immigration and Citizenship.
Other women fall prey to the child protection, housing, judicial or social services systems.
"Here she is trying to stop the abuse, but some system puts up a wall in front of her," says Uppal.
The fear can be so profound that some women in Anna's situation take their children and go into hiding. They try to protect themselves from the system by removing themselves from it.
Anna will never get over what happened to her. No amount of time will take away her pain.
But she will create a new normal for herself, says Elizabeth Repchuck, victim services co-ordinator for the Hamilton police.
"The abuse is always going to be a part of her experience. That's the thing about sexual assault. It's such a deep violation."
UNIFEM Beijing, Domestic Violence in the People’s Republic of China. N.d. United Nations Development Fund for Women.
As in many countries, domestic violence has had adverse impacts on the life and development of thousands of women in the People’s Republic of China. It has been treated as a family issue, not a public issue or an issue of women’s rights and dignity, and as a result, many cases have gone unreported. Many women accept violence as a normal part of their life. One survey found violence in 35 percent of marriages, yet only five percent of women said their marriages were unhappy.
Domestic violence is deeply rooted in traditional Chinese culture, in which wives and daughters are regarded as the private property of fathers and husbands. Although women have gained independence in many ways, the ideology that women are inferior to men and should be in subordinate positions in the household and society at large persists. As a result, victims are reluctant to report incidents of domestic violence, and government administrative bodies at various levels have failed to intervene actively.
A typical Chinese couple features a husband with a higher educational background, a higher income, and a higher political ranking. If the couple does not fit the typical pattern, the husband may use violence to show that he is in control. Since women usually bring in less cash income, and the housework and care they provide are not valued, men regard themselves as the major breadwinners and assume that they have the right to maintain order within the household by using violence. This is particularly true in rural areas, where preference for a boy child is another common cause of abuse. If the wife gives birth to a girl, she might be abused not only by her husband, but also by other members of the husband’s family. Economic stress also affects the rate of occurrence of violence within the family.
”Wife beating grows in China as economy roars ahead,” Juliana Liu, REUTERS, 4 August 2004
BEIJING – Xiao Li, a 32-year-old nurse, still weeps when she recalls the first time her tour guide fiance beat her up.
The couple was bickering over how to renovate a newly purchased apartment in Beijing when the argument dissolved into shoves and punches in full view of neighbors and security guards.
"Every time I got up, he pushed me down again. My mobile phone clanked on the ground. He kept cursing me and demanding I admit I was wrong," she said, tears trickling from swollen eyelids.
"No one had ever talked to me or treated me like that before," said Li....
"In that moment, I could understand why patient wives, abused for years, end up killing their husbands. If I had a knife, I think I would have used it."
Li is one of tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of Chinese women regularly abused by their husbands or partners, experts say. Wife beating and alarming female suicide rates have been well documented in China's remote, dirt-poor villages.
But experts say young, cosmopolitan women like Li are increasingly falling victim to domestic violence as they bear the brunt of unprecedented social upheaval sweeping the country, spurred by an economy galloping at more than 9 percent a year.
In a bizarre twist, many women even say their status in society has been eroded as economic reforms unleashed 20 years ago cast aside the last vestiges of Maoism, under which women were famously told they "hold up half the sky."
BEATEN, STABBED, BURNED
Wife beating hit the headlines in 1999 when news broke that three women in northwestern China had been murdered by their husbands, sparking much soul-searching. One woman was stabbed, another beaten and the third was set on fire.
An official at the All China Women's Federation, Wang Simei, said the level of violence in domestic assault cases has increased.
According to a recent survey by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as many as one-third of women in 270 million households across the country have been victims of domestic violence.
Researchers say surveys often understate the problem because many women are unwilling to "lose face" by admitting, even anonymously, that they have been beaten. In traditional Chinese society, family strife is considered best kept from the public.
Whatever the true number, experts agree domestic violence has become more common as China moves toward a market economy, throwing millions of people out of jobs and ushering in a return to the more traditional values that preceded communist rule.
"Domestic violence has gotten worse," said Ren Yuan, a professor at Shanghai's Fudan University who studies women's issues. "People are more stressed. We all feel this. China is changing very quickly, too fast for social support services and the law."
That doesn't surprise Mrs. Wang, a 42-year-old engineer, who has been a human punching bag for her surgeon husband for 10 years.
"He's under heavy pressure at work and transfers his anger to me," the Beijing resident said by telephone. "At the beginning, he slapped my face. Step by step, he progressed to kicking me and throwing everything in the house he could grab."
GIVING UP HALF THE SKY
Wang said her parents and relatives have pushed her to tolerate the beating, saying it would be difficult for a woman at her age to be alone.
"I don't want to divorce, not only because the apartment I am staying in belongs to him and his salary is two or three times higher than mine. I want to keep a complete and normal family for my child," she said, echoing the fears of many abused women.
"(But) each time, my son and I feel so scared. I have even thought of killing him, killing myself and asking my parents to bring up my child."
Wang says her future would be bleak if she left her husband. There are virtually no state-sponsored women's shelters in China because officials are afraid women would bring their children and stay for good.
Experts say the problem is compounded by a regression in rights and career opportunities, even for talented women. Social attitudes also seemed to be reverting to the old Confucian ways.
Those who seek jobs are becoming commodities, they say, with some young women going as far as getting nose jobs and eye-lid surgery to catch the attention of prospective employers.
"Women's employment rate has fallen and the income gap between men and women has risen," said Wang Simei of the Women's Federation. "More and more people believe women should play a more important role in the family rather than in society."
Marriage is a social pressure many modern Chinese women like Nurse Li can't simply shake off, even to an abusive husband.
"If I don't marry him, I might be an old maid!" she lamented....
”Most Chinese believe wife-beating is reasonable,” China Daily, 19 Dec. 2003.
Nearly half of Chinese people believe it is reasonable for husbands to beat wives, according to a study released on Dec. 10 by China’s largest semi-official women’s group.
The All China Women’s Federation survey found that domestic violence was common in Chinese society.
When disagreements occur with their spouses, 38.4 per cent of the people surveyed admitted they resorted to violence.
The survey also found that 43.7 per cent of respondents blamed the wives, saying domestic violence was often due to their unreasonable behaviour.
"China: Family violence no longer a private matter," China Daily, 15 May 2001.
The statistics on domestic violence in China are not encouraging. Official figures indicate that 30 per cent of the Chinese families are victims of internal violence and nearly one-sixth of the complaints received by women's federations across the country in 1999 were linked with domestic violence.
The problem in China is that domestic violence has traditionally been considered a private matter. Local police stations and neighbourhood committees are usually reluctant to get involved.
Without external help and unable to find escape through divorce, victims of domestic violence like Zhang often chose to retaliate with violence of their own.
Wang Ying, "China: Slowly, domestic violence comes into public eye," Inter Press Service, 4 Dec. 2000.
Domestic violence occurs in 30 percent of the 270 million Chinese families, according to a survey by the All-China Women's Federation.
Many women cover up their shame of being beaten. ...
"For most victims, they would rather keep quiet than let others know of their suffering," said Lu Di, a doctor from the [Beijing Center for Domestic Violence]. "Only when they are desperate do they have the courage to come forward. Therefore, most of the women who do come to our center have been severely injured," Lu said.
Traditional concepts, such as the idea that beating wives and children is commonplace in families and is no one else's business, still linger.
Chen Mingxia, a senior research fellow from the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says this is verified by her investigations in the countryside of suburban Beijing with a group of researchers.
"I talked to the villagers and asked them whether domestic violence existed in their families," Chen said. "'No,' they quickly replied, in one voice."
But when asked if husbands beat their wives or children, the villagers laughed and said: "If this is domestic violence, then it happens nearly everywhere," Chen quoted one villager as saying.
"In China, domestic violence and breaking the law have long been considered two different matters," said Chen.
But although cases of domestic violence are increasing in number, not many of them ever reach court.
"The Chinese stick to the traditional concept that family scandal should never be spread -- hence domestic violence is hidden," said Ji Kunmei, vice-president of the High People's Court of Beijing.
"The effects of domestic violence are varied and severe," said Zhang Xianyu, a professor from the East China University of Politics and Law. When brutality is not stopped in time, Zhang says, marriages easily collapse. "The effects on children growing up in such families are immense. According to research, these children have a much higher tendency to use violence themselves when they grow up," Zhang said. ... Contrary to what many may think, it is not limited to the people with a lack of education but also occurs in families with higher education. A survey carried out by the Guangzhou Women's Federation in South China's Guangdong province shows that 51.7 percent of abusive husbands graduate from senior high school at the very least. Often, they are college graduates and sometimes even have doctorates.
John Gittings, "China to Outlaw 'second wives,'" Guardian, 27 October 2000.
Another estimate held domestic violence responsible for one in three cases [or marital breakdown].
Hu Qihua, "Amendments to Oust Mistresses," China Daily, 24 October 2000.
Statistics show that [domestic violence] occurs in 30 percent of Chinese families, the [National People's Congress] source said.
"China tackles adultery," BBC News, 11 March 2000.
A senior parliamentary official, Hu Kangsheng … said family violence, such as wife beating, was also rising "as a result of resurgent male chauvinism."
Joya Jennings, "Women in China: A Long March," Vancouver Sun, 25 January 2000, A13.
Domestic violence is prevalent.
Human Rights In China, Caught Between Tradition and the State: Violations of the Human Rights of Chinese Women. Dec. 1998.
P. 22. Domestic violence is certainly not new to Chinese society, where a male-centered cultural system in which women were required to be subservient to men has been in place for thousands of years.
P. 23. Owing to the common belief that "family shame should not be aired in public," there is reason to believe that these figures may still contain some underreporting.
P. 24. Virtually unnoticed, except in the occasional instance where beatings result in the death of the child, child abuse has not, to our knowledge, been the subject of serious studies and there are no specific legal provisions outlawing it.
Neil Jeffery and Tara Carr, "Impact of Conflict on Women," U.S. Office on Colombia, Feb. 2004.
Between 1996 and 2001, the Colombian Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences noted an increase in domestic violence cases, estimating the average at six cases every hour. The most common form of abuse is spousal violence, with 70% of affected women victimized by their spouse or partner. Anecdotal evidence suggests that unemployed displaced men release frustration though spousal abuse. Figures from the Institute indicate that since 1996 intra-family violence has increased by over 25%. These figures add up to a disturbing pattern: the armed conflict reinforces a structure that employs physical power to achieve goals. Men and boys raised within this paradigm learn to carve out their dominion through force, asserting physical supremacy over female partners and relatives. Women and girls experience powerlessness as they receive messages emphasizing their dependence on men and stressing their sexuality as key to their identity.
Fifty-two percent of displaced women experience domestic abuse, as compared to twenty percent of non-displaced women. It is estimated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that less than half of battered women seek help and a mere 9% present formal complaints in the legal system, in a large part due to fear of reprisal. Under President Uribe, new legislation prohibits all but the victim of abuse from making an official complaint and initiating the legal process against the perpetrator. This legislation limits the likelihood of legal prosecution and represents a setback for the protection of women.
”Egypt: Abused women reluctant to come forward,” Women in the Middle East, April and May 2006.
Despite the opening of the first safe-house for women in Cairo, few are choosing to leave their abusive marriages due to the social stigma and financial insecurity they would face.
The Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women (ADEW), a local NGO, has collected stories of abused women over the past several years. These stories convinced ADEW that there was an urgent need for a shelter for women who are victims of violence. According to the NGO, domestic abuse is common in Egypt. A 2001 survey conducted in low-income neighbourhoods found that 96 percent of women had been beaten at least once by their husbands. Such violence is often condoned by society, or even by the victims, experts say.
A majority of the women surveyed in a government study, for example, said a husband had the right to beat his wife if she talked to him disrespectfully, talked to another man, spent too much money or refused her husband sex.
If a woman goes to the police station to report domestic abuse, the police adopt the cultural perspective that the man has the right to do it. Men convicted of domestic violence in Egypt face sentences ranging from monetary fines to three years in prison.
Obtaining a divorce, meanwhile, even in marriages where there is physical abuse, can be a long and costly procedure. The fundamental problem is that most women have nowhere to go in the event that they leave their husbands. They face the economic difficulty of supporting themselves and their children, as well as the social stigma of living without a man.
The families and neighbours of such women often encourage them to return to their husbands. According to women’s rights groups, there are no other public or private shelters for women escaping abusive relationships in Egypt, and only a few across the entire Middle East
”Woman tells of abusive horror,” Fiji Times, 25 January 2006.
A woman who was charged with the murder of her de-facto husband told of the horror she and her children had to go through at the hands of the deceased. An emotional Priya Darshani of Nausori testified that she killed her husband to save herself and her children from his sexual and physical abuse. The woman told the court that she could not leave the abusive relationship because she was financially dependent on the deceased and did not have the resources to take care of her children.
”Man makes wife walk out naked,” Fiji Sun, 16 December 2005.
A man who assaulted his wife and then ordered her to undress and walk out of the house naked had his proceedings stayed by six months in which he was told not to re-offend. The perpetrator had returned home intoxicated one night in November and when his wife refused to sleep with him after she saw the state he was in, he assaulted her and then made her walk out naked. A group of youths who were returning home saw her and reported the incident to the police. The perpetrator's defence lawyer, Tevita Fa told Magistrate John Semisi who presided over the case that his client was married with three children and suffered from high blood pressure. Fa also added that the couple had reconciled and that the complainant wanted her husband to come home and that the woman blamed herself for the incident. In addition to the above excuses, the perpetrator's defence lawyer told the court that the perpetrator's only income was from serving in Iraq and would be returning to Iraq soon and if convicted would not be able to leave the country. Magistrate John Semisi said he was going to convict the accused but after Mr Fa's mitigation he would test the accused by staying the proceedings for six months, which basically means he gets off free.
”Court sets wife beater free,” Fiji Times, 30 Dec. 2005.
A soldier who assaulted his wife in Central Suva on 22 Dec was set free by Magistrate John Semisi. According to reports the perpetrator Josaia Usumaki managed to convince courts that he has since reconciled with his wife.
"Man beats and locks wife inside home," Fiji Times, 28 December 2005.
A woman was locked in her home after being severely beaten by her husband for a few days. Crime Stoppers rescued the woman and took her to Labasa Police Station after receiving an anonymous phonecall. According to police, the man has been charged and released from police custody after being warned. He will appear again in court on February 6.
”Wife beater escapes jail term,” Fiji Times, 21 Dec. 2005.
A salesman who hit his wife with a hot iron and smashed her head against a mirror was given a suspended sentence by the Suva Court. Dona Bale, 40, of Raiwai in Suva pleaded guilty to the charge. According to Bale, his de-facto wife kept asking him for money on November 23 to go to town. He then got irritated when she kept nagging him and got hold of the iron and hit her with it, then smashed her head against a mirror. The victim suffered injuries.
"Violence Against Women in the Pacific," Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, 24 Aug. 2005.
Violence against women and children is prevalent throughout the Pacific region across all ethnic and socio-economic groups. FWCC’s national research on domestic violence and sexual assault found that 80% of survey respondents had witnessed violence in their home. 66% of women surveyed reported that they had been abused by their partners, 30% of these suffered repeated physical abuse, and 44% reported being hit while pregnant. 74% of female victims did not report violence to the Police or seek medical attention. Both FWCC and Police records show that 95% of perpetrators of domestic violence are male. In the small number of cases where females are violent to males, this is usually in self-defence. 13% of survey respondents reported that they had been raped. Sexual assault and harassment is prevalent across all age groups, but the largest group of victims were 11-15 years old. Under-reporting of sexual assault is also widespread, with 74% of perpetrators being known to the victim, and over 30% being relatives. Anecdotal evidence indicates that incest is a significant problem in a number of Pacific countries, with much work still to be done to open up this problem to public debate. ...
In some cases, the violence ends only with the woman’s life. In Fiji murders of women in domestic violence situations in the Western Division alone rose from 4 in 2002 to 12 in 2003. Children who are present in violent situations are at a higher risk of repeating the cycle of violence, in addition to the direct physical and mental anguish they suffer.
”France Deports Controversial Imam,” BBC News, 5 October 2004.
A Muslim preacher who defended wife-beating has been deported from France.
Abdelkader Bouziane, an imam from Lyon, was arrested near his home and sent to Algeria on Tuesday, a day after a court ruled he could be expelled.
He was originally deported in April, but the decision was overruled and he was allowed to return.
In an interview, Mr Bouziane had endorsed wife-beating, declared he was polygamous, and expressed the wish that "the entire world become Muslim".
The 52-year-old Algerian told a Lyon newspaper earlier this year that violence against unfaithful wives was justified by the Koran.
The government accused him of inciting violence, and used a new directive aimed at stamping out Islamic fundamentalism to have him deported to Algeria.
But a French tribunal ruled the original expulsion illegal because Mr Bouziane had not been charged and was not allowed to defend himself.
He returned to France, where he has 16 children by two wives, all with French nationality.
The government appealed to the Council of State, France's highest administrative court. On Monday it ruled that the cleric could be thrown out of France after all.
He was arrested on Tuesday and put on a flight to Oran, in Algeria.
Mr Bouziane's remarks on wife-beating caused an outcry in France, with many Muslim lawyers condemning them as un-Islamic.
France has admitted imams from other countries to ensure that its 5m Muslim communities have enough prayer leaders.
But the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says recently the French authorities and moderate Muslims have become worried that some are preaching a strict or fundamentalist form of Islam.
President Jacques Chirac has said he is willing to modify immigration law so France can deport those it fears are stirring up hatred.
Mr Bouziane is the fourth imam this year to be deported from France.
The others were deemed to have either supported terrorism and thus endangered the security of the French state, or preached extreme forms of Islam incompatible with French civil law.
”France expels 'pro-assault' imam,” BBC News, 20 April 2004.
France's interior ministry has ordered the expulsion of a Muslim cleric who advocated the beating of women.
Algerian-born Abdelkader Bouziane, an imam in eastern Lyon, told a magazine that the Koran authorised the beating and stoning of adulterous wives.
Mr Bouziane also expressed hopes that "the entire world becomes Muslim".
The remarks caused an immediate outcry in France, which hosts Europe's largest Muslim community - about five million people, mainly of north African origin.
Muslim leaders in France also condemned the imam's remarks, saying Islam did not condone domestic violence.
However, the leader of France's National Council of Muslims warned the French media not to seek to portray all Muslims in the West as fundamentalists, or to stir up anti-Islamic sentiment by seeking out extremist opinion.
Abdelkader Bouziane has become the second imam this month to face deportation from France.
A Muslim preacher in Brest was deported to Algeria last week after he expressed support for the Madrid bombings, and was accused by the interior ministry of supporting Islamic terrorists.
Mr Bouziane was prayer leader in Venissieux, near Lyon, and has lived in France for the last 25 years.
He was taken into custody on Tuesday, the French interior ministry said.
In a statement, the ministry said remarks against human rights, particularly women's rights, could not be tolerated.
The imam told the April issue of Lyon Mag he favoured wife-beating "under certain conditions, especially if the woman cheats on her husband".
He then went on national television to clarify his comments.
He said he had not advocated hitting women on the face, but insisted that the Koran did authorise husbands to beat their wives if they had been unfaithful.
He was also quoted as saying he favoured an Islamic republic in France.
"But not just for France. I want the whole world to become Muslim."
An expulsion order had already been issued over his views before the magazine article appeared, and the interview confirmed that the decision was correct, the French interior ministry said.
“France: Kicking out cleric who thinks beating up women is OK,” Women in the Middle East, No. 24, Winter 2004.
An Algerian imam living in France, whose comments condoning wife-beating sparked an uproar in the country was deported.
Chirane Abdelkader Bouziane’s expulsion to Algeria came a day after his remarks, which were made in a magazine interview, were widely reported by French media and drew swift reaction from authorities and Muslim leaders. Dalil Boubakeur, president of the mainstream French council of the Muslim religion, said the remarks were “scandalous and revolting.”
“You don’t say things of such gravity without suffering very serious consequences,” Boubakeur, whose council serves as a link to the government, told Europe-1 radio.
Bouziane, 52, imam of a mosque in the Lyon suburb of Venissieux, told the April edition of Lyon Mag that a man could beat his wife “under certain conditions, notably if the woman cheats on her husband.” He claimed that the Koran authorises such punishment. Asked if he was in favour of stoning, he replied, “yes.”
Justice Minister Dominique Perben said that he was personally scandalised by the remarks. The Interior Ministry said in a statement: “The government cannot tolerate remarks in public that are contrary to human rights, detrimental to human dignity and in particular to the dignity of women.” Bouziane reiterated the comments to reporters but specifying that blows to a woman’s face and upper body should be avoided. “Don’t aim at the face, don’t aim at the eyes, the ears, the nose,” he said on LCI television. “Hit low, that is, on the bottom.”
His expulsion came less than a week after another imam was forced to leave the country. Last Thursday, France expelled an imam who called for jihad, or holy war, from his mosque in Brest, in western France.
Ken Lee, "Gaza's women bear heavy burden," BBC News, 18 June 2003.
Married off at 17, Safah Radwan was destined to be a housewife like many other Palestinian women. Then, a year ago, the whole family watched an Israeli bulldozer flatten their three-bedroom home. Israel has identified this area near the Egyptian border, where the Radwans and their eight children live, as a main smuggling inlet for weapons and drugs.
Now living in a converted storehouse, Safah, 37, and her husband, unemployed for the last three years, scrape by with donations and an unshakable faith in God.
"By nature a woman's heart is more tender, so I suffer mostly because I'm unable to fulfill my children's constant needs," she says.
"There's no interest for my husband to be in the house all day, so I'm the one they turn to."
Safah illustrates what academics and psychologists have long described as the "double burden" of Palestinian women - crushed between the Israeli occupation and the gender roles of Arab-Muslim tradition.
The more than two-and-a-half-year intifada has only exacerbated the problems of women, who face increasing domestic violence, anxiety disorders, depression and threat of honour killings.
One of the most densely populated areas on earth, the 147-square-mile Gaza Strip is penned in by a 10-foot-high electrified fence and watchtowers.
Decades of economic dependence on day labour jobs in Israel have left Gaza - now almost completely cut off from those jobs - more impoverished.
According to the Gaza City-based Women's Empowerment Project (WEP), reported cases of domestic violence have increased by 154% since 1999.
In a recent WEP study of 120 randomly selected women, more than 60% said they were victims of violence in the home.
Economic hardship was cited as a primary catalyst of abuse, aggravated by Gaza's soaring unemployment rate, now 56%.
"The men feel frustrated by the political situation so they project their anger on women and children," says WEP psychologist Hala Al Sarrag.
"Many also misinterpret the Koran, thinking it gives them justification to deal with women in any manner they want. They read one verse and forget the others that stipulate reverence and just treatment toward women."
One 38-year-old client, Fatmah Ieid (not her real name) was beaten by her husband from their first days of marriage.
One night, she ended up in hospital with a broken right leg.
Constant in-home violence led Fatmah to develop major depression and symptoms of psychosis. Tests revealed the latter was the result of brain trauma: She had been slammed head-first into a wall.
Yet tradition dictates that a woman should tolerate her husband's behaviour, and see to the proper raising of their children.
Because of this, Fatmah still lives with her man and recently gave birth to their 11th child. The abuse continues.
Clients' records from the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP), reveal that post traumatic stress disorder - severe emotional shock resulting from house demolitions and night raids, part of Israel's crackdown on militants - has leapt more than six-fold among women since 1999.
Among men, PTSD cases during that same period doubled.
Female cases of depressive disorders outnumber males by an average of 58%; depression in females has risen by 20% since the start of the current conflict.
Samir Quota, a psychologist and research officer, explains that although women are less exposed to political violence than men, they are more vulnerable to psychological illness.
Centuries-old patriarchal customs keep Palestinian females largely confined to their homes.
"While males can go out and be active by demonstrating or even resisting, women have no means for catharsis," Quota says.
Perhaps the most extreme example of women's double oppression is the occurrence of femicide - murder, attempted murder or threats against a wife or female relative in the name of restoring family honour.
A woman's chastity is considered sacred, and men will go to great lengths to avenge its violation, from infidelity, premarital sex or rape.
According to the WEP, there were six reported cases of femicide in 1999; in 2001 there were 11. Dozens more cases are thought to go unreported each year.
Meanwhile, women like Safah represent what psychologist Quota says is a large, unaccounted for segment of Palestinian society: those who develop coping mechanisms against psychological affliction because of strong personality traits, religion or extended family support.
Such emotional stamina, however, will never erase Safah's profound sense of loss.
"There's a deep sorrow and sadness I feel which I will never forget even beyond my old age," she says, seemingly oblivious to the rattle of heavy-caliber gunfire just outside her door.
"But our situation is in God's hands, thanks be to him, so he will not forget us. This is our fate."
”Billboard insults highlight abuse,” BBC News, 8 Jan. 2007.
Posters carrying harsh insults are to appear on billboards across Scotland to highlight the "devastating and controlling" impact of domestic abuse.
Messages including "You're useless", "You look a state" and "You're a waste of space" will be seen in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.
The week-long campaign will end with a warning that too many women face psychological abuse every day.
It aims to drive home the effects of persistent emotional abuse.
A radio advert will also give a snapshot of how it might feel to be at the end of a stream of abusive language.
Those who experience domestic abuse are often constantly at the receiving end of verbal abuse and controlling behaviour by their partner, humiliated, undermined, denied access to money or allowed to socialise.
Mary, from the west of Scotland, survived psychological abuse from a previous partner and warned that it can take a long time to recover from this type of mental cruelty.
She said: "For years I thought I was weak, worthless, stupid and ugly but I was none of these.
"I was psychologically abused by the man I loved.
"But I've now recovered from that relationship and I've got my self-esteem back and moved on with my life."
More than 20,000 calls were made to the Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline last year, many of which related to issues of psychological, emotional or mental abuse.
Liz Kelly, training co-ordinator at the helpline, said, "We receive many calls at the helpline relating to incidents of psychological or mental abuse and these have increased since the new advertising campaign highlighted the issue last year.
"Many women don't realise that what they are actually experiencing is domestic abuse, so we talk through their experiences with them and help them understand their partner's controlling behaviour."
Ms Kelly said the calls showed that abuse transcends class, religion, geographical region and age.
She said the helpline offered support as well as other ways to get help, from contact with a local women's aid group or the police, to finding refuge accommodation, making GP appointments and getting good legal advice.
Clare Dyer, “Judges told to get tough on home violence,” Guardian, 8 Dec. 2006.
Plans to allow men who beat their partners or former partners to escape custody by pleading remorse have been dropped in guidance for judges on sentencing for domestic violence. The Sentencing Guidelines Council had originally proposed that remorseful offenders could be punished with a community order or a suspended sentence. But the final guidance, published yesterday, omits the suggestion, after protests from the Home Office minister, Lady Scotland, and women's groups.
The council, whose guidance will be relied on by judges in England and Wales in passing sentence, said: "It was pointed out that remorse is impossible to measure - particularly in light of the recognised domestic violence cycle of violence followed by remorse - and that reference to remorse should be deleted." Judges are now told to treat domestic violence as seriously as violence elsewhere and to sentence accordingly. Serious violence normally calls for a jail sentence, it says.
However, while remorse is no longer a factor, judges may pass a non-custodial sentence if satisfied that both parties genuinely want to try to save their relationship, and that the victim will not be put at risk of further violence. Judges are also told to bear in mind that a victim who pleads for mercy for her abuser may be acting under pressure from the offender.
The guidelines say domestic violence may be more serious than other violent crimes because of aggravating factors, such as abuse of trust, the impact on children or forcing the victim to leave home.
Judges are told to consider the victims' vulnerability when sentencing offenders, including cultural, religious, language or financial factors. A victim should be regarded as "particularly vulnerable" if she was pregnant at the time of the assault.
Claims by abusers that they were provoked should be treated with great care, the guidance says. "Provocation is likely to have more of an effect as mitigation if it has taken place over a significant period of time."
”When violence first hit home,” Guardian, 1 Dec. 2006.
Wife-beating was still being joked about at dinner parties when a squalid house in Chiswick opened its doors to women fleeing abusive partners. Ros Taylor looks at the refuge movement today as it marks its 35th anniversary
The memory of one woman whose husband had taken a hammer and chisel to her face still haunts Sandra Horley, chief executive of the charity Refuge. "He had broken her jaw in five places and she needed 250 stitches," she says. "Her face was a mass of purple bruising; you couldn't see a square of normal skin colour. I had to feed her liquids through a straw."
Horley's memory bank no doubt contains many hundreds of such horrific stories. This month marks the 35th anniversary of the charity that she has run for more than two decades. An organisation that has achieved the inestimable feat of bringing the scourge of domestic violence to popular attention and understanding, it has also provided help, care and security to many thousands of women and children who have been living in fear of familial violence - and even death. Women who have had their teeth knocked out, who have been throttled, punched and burnt, who have been thrown down stairs and verbally abused until any confidence they may have had is shredded. Given the changed social attitudes that Refuge has nurtured, it is shocking to recall how dismissive people were about domestic violence even just a few decades ago.
Although the women's movement was firmly established by the late 1970s, wife-beating was still regularly joked about at dinner parties. "I dreaded telling people what I did for a living," says Horley, because the myths surrounding domestic violence were so pervasive. Women who called the police were simply advised to make it up with their husband or partner. "You absolutely could not get the police to attend incidents for love or money. Nothing happened."
It is no exaggeration, then, to say that, until Chiswick Women's Aid, the forerunner of Refuge, began to offer women sanctuary, the concept of domestic violence - as opposed to wife-beating - was unheard of. The idea that this could take the form of emotional, as well as physical, abuse, and that children could also be victims, would have been derided. Hardly anyone would have predicted that 35 years later a Home Office paper would describe it as a "horrendous crime".
In some ways, though, the movement got off to an inauspicious start. In late 1971, Erin Pizzey - a bored thirtysomething housewife who would soon become an outspoken writer and campaigner - was running a women's group from a house in Belmont Terrace, Chiswick. When a bruised woman turned up on her doorstep and said that no one would help her, Pizzey agreed to take her in. Many others soon followed.
By 1974 the managing director of the building company Bovis had offered her the much bigger house where Horley came to work in 1983. "I remember being astonished that first day," she says. The building was supposed to house 35 women, but the open door policy meant it sometimes accommodated four times that number. "There were rats, graffiti all over the walls. It was straight out of Dickens. I was so distressed by the rats I rang up environmental health and asked them what to do." Horley was no ingénue. When she answered the job ad to take over the refuge she had already worked at another shelter, the Haven in Wolverhampton. Still, she was shocked. "It wasn't a squat, but it was squalid," she remembers. But women fleeing their violent partners were so desperate they were undeterred by the vermin and the overcrowding. "There were hundreds of women ringing. We could never meet the demand."
Refuge has always been committed to assisting every woman who sought its help. But it suffered a setback in the late 1970s when Pizzey began suggesting that many victims unconsciously enjoyed violence, dividing them into "genuine battered women" and "violence-prone women". In her controversial book Prone to Violence, she described how one woman who sought her help repeatedly "needed murder games to feel alive". When her son was taken into care, she begged Pizzey to vouch for her fitness to look after him. "I can't," Pizzey told her. "If you can't come to terms with your own need for violence, he's safer away from you. But you don't want to give it up. I'm sorry, love." Pizzey was reviled. Many declared her a traitor, undermining the very cause she pioneered. She left Chiswick Women's Aid in 1981. "On the positive side," says Horley, carefully, "one has to give her a great deal of credit for setting up the movement in the first place." But Pizzey's theories, she says, are misguided. "There is no evidence whatsoever to support her theory ... It is a total myth that women like, or seek, violence and it is wrong to judge those who are forced to return to an abusive man - they may simply have no other option." Today, the number of women calling the hotline, run jointly by Refuge and Women's Aid, continues to rise and each year around 63,000 women and children are admitted to a refuge. Refuge's 30 hostels house a core group of around 25 to 35 women and the charity needs £10,000 a day for running costs.
One of the women who sought help in recent years was Laura, whose partner first attacked her - completely out of the blue - while she was driving him to his Sunday football game. He turned around and punched her directly in the face when she explained that she didn't know where he was playing. After that, the violence escalated - with incidents including strangulation. Laura contacted Refuge after one of the incidents in which her partner pushed her - his attacks were so frequent that she has had to have physiotherapy for the scar tissue formed in her thigh from the repeated falls (the wounds were compounded by him kicking her). During their relationship, Laura had lost much of her confidence, and had once attempted an overdose, but, with help from Refuge, she was able to leave her partner and start anew. Although she still lives in fear of him - constantly looking over her shoulder - she has built a successful career.
Hostels are still key, but they are no longer the only option. The Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004 makes it an offence to breach a "no molestation order", but despite this, many perpetrators are able to find out where their ex-partner is living and try to return. Some local authorities run "sanctuary schemes", reinforcing one of the rooms in an abused woman's house so she can retreat and lock and bolt the door.
Since Horley began her work, the attitudes of the police have fundamentally changed - just yesterday 500 Metropolitan Police officers made raids across London, targeting domestic violence and hate crimes, co-ordinated to draw attention to just how seriously these offences are now taken. Of those now arrested, more than a third are charged and a further 15% cautioned. Despite what Horley calls a "postcode lottery", the criminal justice system recognises domestic violence and is beginning to act. Yet two women still die each week in England and Wales at the hands of a partner or ex-partner, a figure that has barely altered since 1997. Horley is fully aware that a refuge is an escape and not a solution. "It's about power ... men beat women up because they get away with it. We could have a refuge on every corner but as long as society continues to hide, excuse and ignore domestic violence, it will carry on behind closed doors."
Some names have been changed.
”Domestic abuse 'on the increase,'” BBC News, 28 Sept. 2006.
Reports of domestic abuse in Scotland are on the rise, figures have revealed.
Incidents recorded by police increased from 43,631 in 2004/05 to 45,796 in 2005/06, the Scottish Executive statistics showed.
The vast majority of domestic abuse was perpetrated in the home by men against women and more than half of cases last year involved repeated victimisation.
The executive said the rise in reported cases was a result of victims' greater confidence in calling the police.
Deputy Communities Minister Johann Lamont said: "I recognise that statistics show an increasing trend in reported incidents of domestic abuse.
"We believe this is mainly due to a greater understanding and acknowledgement that domestic abuse is unacceptable and reflects increased confidence in reporting incidents to the police."
Just over 41% of incidents reported to police in 2005/06 involved couples who were living together or married.
Women are at most risk of being victims of domestic abuse when aged between 22 and 25.
Violence was perpetrated by women against men in 13% of cases recorded by police last year.
Men are most at risk between the ages of 31 and 35, the figures revealed.
The most common crime or offence recorded was minor assault, followed by breach of the peace.
The overall incidence of domestic abuse recorded by Scottish forces last year was 899 per 100,000 population compared with 859 per 100,000 in 2004-05.
Ms Lamont said: "We continue to raise awareness of domestic abuse, including through education in schools and through our campaign Domestic Abuse, There's No Excuse.
"We are committed to ensuring that those experiencing abuse are able to access help, support, protection and justice."
Amnesty International, "Honduras," Report 2006.
Violence against Women
Special domestic violence courts were reportedly overwhelmed with growing numbers of complaints, said to total over 30,000 between 2000 and mid-2005. According to the Special Prosecutor for Women’s Affairs, three out of 10 women who submitted complaints were eventually killed by their attacker.
In August, Deputy Attorney General Omar Cerna was reported as acknowledging that allegations of violence in the family were not taken seriously enough.In January, Marta Beatriz Reyes died after being set on fire while she slept, reportedly by her estranged husband. Taken to hospital in San Pedro Sula with second and third degree burns to 40 per cent of her body, she died 11 days later. After enduring years of violence, she had left her husband. Although she submitted several complaints to the police, they failed to protect her or take action.
Roger O. Burks, Jr., “Breaking the Silence,” Mercy Corps, 30 Sept. 2004.
In rural Honduras, poverty and hunger gnaw away at families every day. However, there's another daily tragedy tearing village households apart: domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a hidden and largely secret affliction among Honduran families. The silence surrounding domestic abuse veils any attempt to gather statistics about the problem. However, rumors and telltale bruises reveal the truth: it's rampant. From time to time, the silence is broken with the death of a woman or child.
Mercy Corps, working with local partner Project Global Village, is bringing the heartbreak and danger of domestic violence out in the open, in order to change attitudes and save lives.
Launched in 1999, the Mercy Corps program is called DEBORAH. It seeks to intervene in cases of domestic violence by providing legal services to women, families and communities.
For years, one of the biggest obstacles to reducing domestic abuse in Honduras has been the perception that it is simply "an aspect of the culture." Many parts of Honduran society, including communities, the police and local churches, hold on to this mindset.
The DEBORAH program aims to change this way of thinking by teaching women to defend their rights, as well as empowering communities to support them.
From the outset of the program, Mercy Corps has sought to enlist the aid of local police, politicians, judges and other community leaders in the struggle against domestic violence. Today, the DEBORAH program has enormous support and collaboration from local authorities.
Over the past four years, the program's paralegal officers have managed more than 750 counseling cases in four Honduran cities. From those cases, there have been 211 non-aggression agreements between couples reached out of court, and 450 alimony settlements. Nearly 2000 people have visited the law libraries located in the DEBORAH program's four office locations. Since its founding, the program has educated over 2500 community members, including teachers, religious leaders and politicians.
In Tualabe, one of the cities where the program maintains an office, there are currently 300 clients in legal orientation classes and 200 clients undergoing domestic violence counseling. In addition, DEBORAH paralegal officers recently trained 60 teachers to speak out against domestic violence.
Kayla, one of the paralegal officers in Tualabe, has been working with the DEBORAH program for the last two and a half years. She meets and counsels women who come to the office, which is located in the local municipal building. She sees up to seven clients each day.
"We give self-esteem classes and provide a counseling program to help women and families heal," Kayla said.
Kayla often goes to local schools that have night classes to teach people about domestic violence and explain DEBORAH's programs. Educating communities about domestic abuse is integral to breaking the cycle of violence that plagues Honduran families.
"Sometimes, after we've done a teacher training, children have gone home from school and told their abused moms to seek help at DEBORAH," Kayla said.
The DEBORAH program is unique in Honduras: it's a grassroots approach to educating communities, resolving conflict and building a society that's safer for women and children.
HUN101699.E, “Hungary: Effectiveness of state efforts to combat violence against women, including domestic abuse (January 2005-August 2006),” 31 August 2006. Ottawa: IRB, 2006.
It is estimated that apporoximately one in five Hungarian women are threatened or are victims of domestic violence…. An uncorroborated United Nations (UN) report cited by The Budapest Sun indicates that, in Hungary, one woman dies every week and one child every month as a result of domestic violence…. A survey of Hungarian media and police reports b the NANE Women’s Rights Association … found that one person is murdered every four days as a result of domestic violence, a figure that includes male and non-spouse victims.
"Foreign Crazy Man Sets Wife Afire," Indo-Canadian Online, 28 Nov. 2006.
Ludhiana (Punjab): In his frenzy to go abroad, a middle-aged man allegedly set his wife on fire at Seelon Khurd, near Dehlon, today after she persistently refused to accept a “sham” divorce pact that could have enabled emigration to the man after marrying a woman based in a foreign country.
Amarjit Kaur suffered 90 per cent burns and had been admitted at the CMC Hospital in Ludhiana. The couple has an 11-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter.
According to Amarjit, her husband wanted her to sign papers for divorce by suggesting that it would be just on paper to facilitate his emigration after a second marriage.
The SSP, Jagraon, Mr R.K. Jaiswal, said the incident took place late in the afternoon but it was only in the statement of the woman made before a judicial magistrate at the hospital in the evening that the shocking act came to light. He said the woman’s statement could well be a dying declaration as her condition was very serious.
Meanwhile, the police has booked her husband Devinder Singh and parents-in-law under Section 307 of the IPC for attempting to murder the woman.
”India tackles domestic violence,” BBC News, 26 Oct. 2006.
A landmark new law seeking to protect women from domestic violence has come into effect in India.
The law also bans harassment by way of dowry demands and gives sweeping powers to a magistrate to issue protection orders where needed.
Punishment could range from a jail term of up to one year and/or a fine of up to 20,000 rupees ($450).
Every six hours, a young married woman is burned, beaten to death or driven to commit suicide, officials say.
Overall, a crime against women is committed every three minutes in India, according to India's National Crime Records Bureau.
Despite the scale of the problem, there had been no specific legislation to deal with actual abuse or the threat of abuse at home.
Domestic violence, under the new law, includes "actual abuse or the threat of abuse whether physical, sexual, emotional or economic," a statement from the federal ministry of women and child development said.
Wall of silence
The law provides protection to the wife or live-in partner from violence at the hands of the husband or live-in partner or his relatives.
INDIA: CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN
One crime against women every three minutes
One rape every 29 minutes
One dowry death case every 77 minutes
One case of cruelty by husband and relatives every nine minutes
Source: National Crime Records Bureau
Besides physical violence, the law also covers forcing a wife or partner to look at pornography.
"We have been trying for long to protect women from domestic violence. In India alone, around 70% of women are victim of these violent acts in one or the other form," junior minister for women and child development Renuka Chowdhury told the Press Trust of India news agency.
She said the news law would help provide relief to the women suffering from domestic violence.
Women's activists have welcomed the law, although many say it is not perfect.
They say a bill alone will not help in preventing domestic abuse; what is needed is a change in mind sets.
U.S. Dept. of State, “India,” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2005.
Domestic violence was common and a serious problem. According to a 2004 National Commission for Women Survey, 60 to 80 percent of women were abused in some way by their spouses, 42 percent were beaten physically, and 22 percent were expelled from their homes for at least a day. According to the women’s group Majlis, many women were forced to remain in abusive relationships because of social and parental pressure and to protect their children. According to a survey conducted during the year by the International Institute for Population Studies, 56 percent of women believed wife beating was justified in certain circumstances.
British Home Office, “India,” Country of Origin Information Report, 2006.
As reported by BBC News on 24 August 2005, the lower house of parliament has passed a bill seeking to protect women from domestic violence. The bill is expected to become law in the next few days following approval from the upper house. The bill seeks to ban harassment from dowry demands and will give sweeping powers to magistrates to issue protection orders. The report states:
“Every 6 hours in India a young married woman is burned alive, beaten to death or driven to commit suicide…According to a recent study, at least 45% of Indian women are slapped, kicked or beaten by their husbands, many of them on a continual basis…Women’s activists have welcomed the bill, although many say it is not perfect.”
Ranjit Devraj, “Women push for tougher domestic violence law,” Contemporary Women’s Issues, 25 April 2002.
NEW DELHI, Apr. 25 (IPS) -- For years, Susheela slaved and saved as a domestic to build the house of her dreams, a two-room shanty on the outskirts of the Indian capital, for her family of three children and her tradesman husband.
It never occurred to her that on a bitingly cold winter day in December last year, her husband, following an altercation over missing money, would beat her up and turn her out of the house they jointly own.
An appeal at the local police station earned her more abuse and a warning that she had better patch things up with her husband. "What can I do? I have nowhere to go and it is all right for a husband to beat his wife every now and then," Susheela said resignedly.
Susheela's attitude is not uncommon in a country where the status of women is markedly low. Indeed, a survey conducted by the International Institute for Population Sciences and published by the health ministry less than two years ago found that 56 percent of Indians actually endorsed or accepted wife-beating.
Despite the culture of silence around the subject, the health ministry's National Family Health Survey has succeeded in gathering some statistics on domestic violence. Twenty percent of married women it surveyed admitted that they had been physically mistreated after reaching adulthood, usually by their husbands.
"The percentage is obviously much higher," an official of the survey said.
Such is the internalization of gender inequality that little was expected from the Domestic Violence Bill introduced in Parliament on Mar. 8, as a nod to International Women's Day by the unabashedly patriarchal, pro-Hindu, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
A former president of the women's wing of the BJP, Mridula Sinha, is on record as saying that wife-beating and domestic violence can often be justified -- and that there are cases when women provoke a beating.
Ancient scriptures, which are steadily coming back into vogue thanks to an aggressive Hindu revivalist movement undertaken by the BJP, hold that "like a drum, women and low caste people improve upon being beaten."
Predictably, the domestic violence bill fell short on several of the counts that have been regularly raised by women's rights groups, which are now pressing for substantial amendments such as inclusion of the right of residence in the family home.
According to Indian tradition, once a woman is married she ceases to be a member of the parental household and her return is considered inauspicious and therefore to be discouraged. Few women dare to set up residence on their own, even if they can afford it, for fear of sexual and other harassment.
The same ancient scriptures, authored by the increasingly oft-quoted lawgiver, Manu, require females to be under the discipline of the father as a girl, under the discipline of her husband after marriage, and that of her sons in old age.
According to the Lawyers' Collective Women's Rights Initiative (LCWRI), not having any right to the matrimonial home is a major omission since it makes a woman vulnerable to unfair settlements and blackmail.
In a statement, the LCWRI pointed out that a battered woman is left to choose between returning to more beatings in a violent home or getting a divorce with unfair terms such as giving up rights to assets or support.
Typically, as in the case of Susheela, police officers are not supportive. "Almost invariably the police take the attitude that domestic problems are an internal matter of the family and it is best for the woman to compromise," said Ranjana Kumari who runs the Center for Social Research (CSR), a leading women's organization.
Besides, complaining to the police or even to women's support groups can result in worse harassment back at home, since the woman is then considered to have disgraced family honor by going public. But the powerful All-India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), an affiliate of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) that is bitterly opposed to the ruling BJP, sees the domestic violence bill as endorsing existing retrograde social beliefs such as the view that the male has a right to resort to violence.
The general secretary of the AIDWA, Brind Karat, points to provisions in the bill that exempt the aggressor from charges of causing injury or harm to a woman as long as he was protecting himself or his property or even someone else's property.
"Anybody can make the plea that an assault was made in self-defence or that his property was threatened and thus indirectly prevent a woman from removing what may be her property," Karat said. Even the very definition of domestic violence under the bill seems to endorse male violence indirectly. The bill limits the definition to "conduct in which a woman is habitually assaulted or her life is made miserable by cruelty even if such conduct does not amount to physical treatment or as a result of which she is forced to lead an immoral life, is injured or harmed."
According to activists, the devil is in the word "habitually," which implies that occasional assaults on a woman are fine, and leaves it to a judge to decide what is occasional and what is habitual.
The bill defies the spirit of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which includes all possible violence that could be perpetrated on a woman within the family setting. India is a signatory to it.
Still, the LCWRI acknowledges in a statement that the bill, for all its shortcomings, does get the government to officially recognize the fact of domestic violence.
"India backs domestic abuse bill," BBC News, 24 August 2005.
Every six hours in India, a young married woman is burned alive, beaten to death or driven to commit suicide.
”The Truth About Domestic Violence,” Hindustani Times, 25 Nov. 1999.
The police does not consider domestic violence as a serious issue demanding its attention. I too held this view till I read the findings of the research studies, conducted under the auspices of the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW).
The seminal studies, conducted by Leela Visaria in Gujarat, Nishi Mitra in Madhya Pradesh, and Veena Poonacha and Divya Pandey in Karnataka and Gujarat, have transformed my views. Domestic violence is more pervasive and much more serious than we think. It is not an entirely Western phenomenon as many of us would like to believe. The problem is widespread and has deep societal ramification.
It cuts across caste, class, religion, age and education. Abusive relationships were reported more frequently among the illiterate, as high as 76 per cent women and 81 per cent men. However, incidence does not fall below 40 per cent for any group. Two-thirds of all women interviewed reported some form of physical violence or sexual abuse according to the survey conducted in a rural district of Gujarat.
Forty-two per cent of them were beaten by sticks, sometimes causing grievous injuries. Even the newly-weds were not spared. It started with verbal abuse for 53 per cent of them. These findings indicate that with time, abuse intensifies to the point where "everything" becomes a precipitating factor for violence. Two of every five women in abusive relationship keep quiet about their suffering because of fear, shame and family honour. The lack of viable options also keeps women trapped in their miserable lives.
Nearly one-third of the women experiencing abuse had thought of running away, but gave up the idea for the sake of their young children and because they had no place to go. Social and economic constraints further compounded their sense of helplessness and isolation. Lack of awareness about their rights makes them accept physical abuse without any resistance. What is worse, the majority of the victims have no access to any form of medical care. The study points out to lack of medical and counselling services to address domestic violence.
Domestic violence has a huge economic cost, a fact which is not appreciated. Studies in the US have estimated the annual cost of domestic violence in billions of dollars. One study in 1995 by Miller, Cohen and Wiersema puts the figure at $67 billion. All these estimates are based on measuring direct and indirect costs. The direct cost includes the cost of health care, loss of household/individual income and the judicial process. The indirect cost includes loss of productivity, mortality, social and psychological cost, and reduced child well-being. The impact of domestic violence on household economy can be disastrous.
In the study conducted by Nishi Mitra in 13 districts of Madhya Pradesh and 18 districts of Maharashtra, she has specially looked into the role of the police and the law. A battered woman finds it difficult to get a case of domestic violence registered at a police station. During the study she interviewed many police officers at all levels. The general response was that while deciding whether to register or not, they invariably "check the reason of violence; dowry, personal traits, character and infertility." They treat a number of complaints as trivial matters and refuse to register them.
Instead of registering the complaint, the police stations refer a number of complaints to the counselling cell. If a complaint gives information about the commission of cognizable offence, the police under the law has really no option but to register the FIR (First Information Report).
They avoid doing so in the belief that in not registering the complaint and referring her to the counselling cell, they are helping the victim. What they do not realise is that this "emphasis on reconciliation ultimately leads a woman to go back to her in-laws thus compromising her situation" even further. The police will do well to concentrate on their enforcing duties than taking up counselling work for which they are not really qualified.
The police and the judiciary need to be sensitised to the sufferings of battered women. Domestic violence should be recognised as social problem and not a private family affair. The law should take an active role in its prevention by punishing the guilty. Women also need to be made more aware of their rights.
As Nishi Mitra points out in her study: "It is only the tip of iceberg, revealing a fraction of actual truth. The culture of silence prevents women from coming out in the open about the abuse." By undertaking these studies the ICRW has taken the first step in conducting an intensive investigation on domestic violence. One hopes it would be followed by action plans for legal and social intervention for its prevention.
”Some of Iran's suffering wives look to a new solution -- husband killing,” Associated Press Worldtsream, 7 July 2002.
TEHRAN, Iran -- Married at age 13 to a man 18 years her senior, Ferdows was the wife that Iranian society expected her to be: obedient, and silent, despite the beatings and humiliation.
But after 30 years of marriage, she had had enough. She arranged to have her husband, Hedayat, killed, authorities say.
Ferdows, who has been convicted of murder and sentenced to death, is one of at least 20 Tehran women accused of murdering their husbands since February. Initially, the reports of the slayings were largely unnoticed. That changed as the number rose and Iranians began to see the killings as signs of social stresses.
"Husband killing is a new phenomenon in Iran's male-dominated society. It means economic hardships and social crises are reaching a crisis point," said Mohammad Ahmadi, a sociologist.
He cited a number of problems in Iranian society that lead to frustration and desperation: forced marriages, philandering by husbands, impotence, poverty and no healthy entertainment in a country whose Islamic laws ban socializing between men and women who are not closely related.
Others blame restrictive divorce laws that leave women feeling murder is the only way out of a bad marriage.
In Ferdows’ case, she accused her husband of abuse.
"During 30 years of matrimonial life, Hedayat always beat me. He was a doubter and skeptical of everything and didn't trust me. He had made the life hell for me," Ferdows told authorities, who have identified her only by her first name.
Ferdows paid a man the equivalent of $3,750 to stab her husband to death three years ago, prosecutors said. The crime wasn't exposed until this February, when police found her husband's remains in an abandoned building. She had told people her husband abandoned her.
Both Ferdows and the hit man were convicted and sentenced at a closed trial in April. Word of the outcome leaked out a few weeks ago.
The punishment for women who murder their husbands is death. Some have already been convicted and executed. Others are on death row and some are awaiting trial. They come from all social classes.
"Divorce is the first solution for women to get rid of an undesirable troubled life. But why did these women ignore this option and resort to something that carries the death sentence?" asked the monthly magazine Zanan (Women).
While Iranian men can divorce almost at will, a woman who wants a divorce must go through a legal battle that can take up to 20 years, said lawyer Sara Irani. Even then, she said, it might end with the woman failing to dissolve the marriage.
Under Iran's Islamic laws, a man is allowed to keep four wives at one time, a right not granted to women.
Even if a husband is having an affair, he can claim to have undertaken a "sigheh," or temporary marriage. It's a contract allowed under Iranian law that allows a man and woman to be "married" for any length of time they choose. Critics call it a form of legalized prostitution.
Nor does a wife trapped in a violent marriage have much recourse against her husband.
"A woman has to bring four men witnesses confirming violence against her by her husband," Irani said. "How is a woman in Iran expected to keep four men in her bedroom to witness her husband beating her?"
Irani, who is also a writer on women's affairs, said that husband killing is the "outcome of humiliation and discrimination against women" and that the recent surge in cases should pressure the country's leaders to improve legal protection for women.
Ahmadi, the sociologist, said that in a country where there is virtually no sex education, unhappy marriages and domestic violence also can arise when husbands and wives don't know how to please each other. "Many couples don't have enjoyable sex," he said.
Abdosamad Khorramshahi, a lawyer, sees social changes contributing to the killings.
"Previously, we had a socially closed society. Women were not allowed even to get out of the home without the husband's permission. Now, things have changed. They are more outspoken and courageous. Women have become aware of their rights and are fighting for equality," he said.
According to official figures, 44,000 Iranians were divorced last year, a 12 percent increase from the previous year. At the same time, registered marriages were down 4.5 percent.
Marie-Louise Connolly, “Hitting back at violence in the home,” BBC News, 16 Feb. 2007.
In Northern Ireland, every 23 minutes, a distress call is made to the police for help in relation to violence in the home.
In most cases the call is made by a woman, or a relative of a woman who is being physically abused by her partner.
Domestic violence is spreading rapidly in our society.
Black, white, young and old, male and female, domestic violence knows no physical or ethnic boundaries.
But, while the number of incidents being reported is on the increase, according to the police that number does not reflect the true extent of the crime that's taking place behind closed doors.
A new documentary on BBC Radio Ulster, "To Have and to Hit", explores the terrible truth behind some closed doors.
In the documentary, women tell their real life experiences of living with men who mentally and physically abused them.
We also hear the often forgotten victims - the children who suffer regularly too.
The BBC has learned the government is considering introducing legislation which would see the implementation of a register for perpetrators of domestic violence.
It would operate in the same way as a sex offenders register, where names would be made public.
This has received a mixed reaction. Some victims I spoke to were against the idea because they believed they too would be included in the "name and shame game".
In Northern Ireland last year, almost 1,100 women of all ages stayed in Women's Aid refuges, alongside them over 1,000 children.
Often fleeing their homes in the middle of the night, they arrive in one of Northern Irelands 13 refuges wearing only their pyjamas and carrying a small suitcase with hastily grabbed belongings.
While investigating the issue of domestic violence, I spent an afternoon in a hostel in south Belfast.
Within a few hours - two women arrived, literally deposited on the doorstep by a taxi driver.
One of the women was crying uncontrollably. She was carrying a small bag of teddy bears, a box of clothes and a photograph album.
A support worker called Terry, showed her to a small sitting room, put her arms around her and cradled her head as she cried.
Her eyes were blackened with smudged make-up and in her hand she held a crumpled white tissue.
The woman, who was in her 20s, left home after her husband had left for work.
She told Terry he had had been "punching" her for years.
The refuge will provide her with temporary accommodation until the Housing Executive re-houses her. That process could take months.
As a key preventive measure for the future, the government set out education as a tool to tackle the problem.
The BBC has also learned that the government has yet to introduce domestic violence into the curriculum in Northern Ireland.
That is despite pupils in school in England being taught the importance of respecting women and what they should do if they are experiencing violence at home.
In 2005, the government acknowledged the extent of the problem by publishing a strategy entitled Tackling Violence at Home.
It sent out a clear message - domestic violence is a crime and is not acceptable in any circumstances.
Children clearly need help too. In the documentary, a woman called Carol describes how her eight children regularly saw her being punched by her husband - in time they too were struck by their dad.
Alongside Women's Aid , the NSPCC has begun pilot projects where mothers and children can attempt to re-build their relationships.
According to Woman's Aid, the programme needs to target boys in particular. Noelle Collins, Women's Aid team leader, said: "While we are going into schools - we can't do it on our own.
"We need the backing of government and we need the co-operation of education boards to introduce it into the curriculum. "
The documentary dispels many of the myths behind domestic violence.
It can happen to anyone and unless children are made aware of the issue as young as primary school age - the problem shows no sign of abating.
The women who told us their stories are no longer victims but survivors.
For many, their journey's not yet over. But what has emerged through the programme - is that trip could be made a lot sooner if domestic violence programmes were made compulsory in schools and the issue was recognised more as a crime offence.
Susannah Price, “Pakistan's rising toll of domestic violence,” BBC News, 24 August, 2001.
Aid workers in Pakistan have called for an urgent increase in the number of safe shelters available to the growing number of women who are victims of domestic violence.
Human rights workers says each year large numbers of women are beaten, tortured or burnt by their husbands or families, and they have few places to escape to.
Some have had their bones broken or their faces mutilated.
Seventeen-year-old Tehmina was married off to a businessman four times her age. She never considered leaving him despite the regular beatings.
But one day he went much further - when the whole family was out, he locked her in the bedroom. Tehmina says she was tied by her hands and feet to a bed while her husband announced three times he was divorcing her.
"Then he took a knife and cut off the end of my nose and all my hair."
Tehmina is now at a shelter in Islamabad receiving medical treatment while her husband is in prison.
Aid workers say many women remain in violent relationships because they believe they must obey their husbands and that divorce is a disgrace.
A third of women in Pakistan are illiterate and have little concept about making their own choices.
Dr Noreen Khalid, programme officer for the shelter, says this imbalance can encourage abusive relationships.
"[The husband] sometimes becomes so powerful he becomes a sadist and he just forgets that his partner, his wife, is a human being," she says.
The shelter, which provides a safe haven for women and their children, is one of only two independently-run refuges which are open to all women.
The government-run shelters are only for those referred by the courts.
But this is not only a place to hide and recuperate.
It also offers the women the chance to talk about their problems, to restore their self-esteem, and even plan for the future.
The abused women often need practical support as well, such as legal advice to bring criminal cases.
But aid workers say the system is often stacked against the women.
The police often refuse to register cases unless there are obvious signs of injury and judges sometimes seem to sympathise with the husbands.
Nahida Mahboob Elahi, a human rights lawyer at the centre, wants new laws to be implemented.
"There needs to be special legislation on domestic violence and in that context they must mention that this is violence and a crime."
Zahida Perveen's husband accused her of being unfaithful and cut off her nose and ears and gouged out her eyes.
The centre helped her go abroad for treatment and to prosecute her husband, who is now serving a 14-year prison sentence.
Zahida, who is now blind, appreciated the support, but tells Nahida that she feels the sentence was far too lenient.
"He is sitting quietly in jail, he is not feeling the same pain which I have felt, not going through the same misery I've gone through, so this is not enough," she says.
The women are offered the chance to meet their husbands again to try to hammer out their problems. This sometimes leads to reconciliation.
Humaira was constantly beaten by her husband and other members of his family before she finally ran away with their two children.
But she has recently met her husband again and after he apologised, she says she is prepared to give him a second chance.
The authorities in Pakistan appear to recognise the scale of domestic violence. But aid workers say not enough is being done.
They believe the victims need a proper network of support across the country - and that their attackers must not escape justice.
Crime Or Custom? Violence Against Women in Pakistan. Human Rights Watch. August 1999.
Estimates of the percentage of women who experience domestic violence in Pakistan range from 70 to upwards of 90 percent.
According to HRCP, "[T]he extreme forms it took included driving a woman to suicide or engineering an `accident' (frequently the bursting of a kitchen stove) to cause her death . . . usually . . . when the husband, often in collaboration with his side of the family, felt that the dower or other gifts he had expected from his in-laws in consequence of the marriage were not forthcoming, or/and he wanted to marry again, or he expected an inheritance from the death of his wife."
During 1997, the Lahore press reported an average of more than four local cases of women being burnt weekly, three of the four fatally.
Police follow-up on these cases was negligible, with only six suspects taken into custody out of the 215 cases reported in Lahore newspapers during the year. In 1997, there was not a single conviction in a "stove-death" case in the country.
The Lahore press also reported 265 homicides against women in the local area resulting from other forms of intrafamily violence. In the majority of cases, husbands and in-laws were responsible for the murders, while in other cases the perpetrators were brothers and fathers.
”'Wife-beating' Saudi surrenders,” BBC News, 21 April 2004.
A well-known TV presenter in Saudi Arabia says her husband has surrendered to police to face charges of attempting to kill her.
The case has opened a public debate in Saudi Arabia about the issue of violence against women.
The presenter, Rania al-Baz, allowed newspapers to show pictures of her swollen and bruised face and has had repeated surgery for 13 fractures.
There has been no official comment from Saudi police on the arrest or charges.
Ms Baz accuses her husband, Mohammed al-Fallatta, of severely beating her, threatening to kill her, and abducting their children.
She says she stayed with him because she was afraid she would be denied custody of the children if she obtained a divorce.
Domestic violence centre stage
Every morning for the past six years, Ms Baz has presented a family programme on Saudi television. She is well-known in the kingdom.
Ms Baz's case is the first time domestic violence has received media coverage of this kind in Saudi Arabia.
The BBC's correspondent Kim Ghattas says Saudi Arabia is a deeply conservative society, where Islamic Sharia law is strictly enforced and where honour and appearances are hugely important.
The presence of problems such as domestic violence, rape, paedophilia or Aids is often simply not acknowledged.
“Out of the shadows, into the world,” The Economist, 17 June 2004.
The kingdom's best-known TV personality also happens to be a woman. Rania al-Baz won further fame earlier this year when her husband beat her almost to death. Instead of staying silent, as her mother would have done, Mrs al-Baz invited photographers into her hospital room to show the world her broken face. She has now formed a group to combat the abuse of women in Saudi Arabia.
”Cleric convicted for prescribing wife-beating,” Associated Press, Jan. 15, 2004
Madrid—Spanish women’s associations hailed on Thursday the conviction of an Islamic cleric who advised Muslims how to beat their wives, calling the ruling a triumph for women.
Mohammed Kamal Mustafa, imam of the southern town of Fuengirola, was given a suspended sentence of to 15 months in prison on Wednesday.
“We should celebrate that at last it has been proved that Islam and the Prophet Mohammed cannot be used to justify this sexist individual’s attitudes to women,” said Jadicha Candela, a prominent feminist lawyer and president of An-Nisa, an association of Muslim women.
“Mistreatment of any living being is contrary to the spirit of Islam,” Ms. Candela added. She was one of the women who testified at the trial about the evolution of women’s rights in contemporary Islam.
Maria Jose Valera, one of the lawyers who represented about 90 women’s groups involved in the case, said the verdict was the first in Spain to recognize “incitement to violence on the basis on gender.”
“It’s a great victory for women,” Ms. Valera said.
The cleric will not go to prison as under Spanish law people with no previous convictions have their first sentences suspended if they are under two years. He was also fined the equivalent of $3,540 Canadian.
In his book Women in Islam, published in 1997, Mr. Mustafa urged husbands to hit their wives “on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body.”
In his defence, Mr. Mustafa argued that he was interpreting passages of the Koran and said he opposed violence against women. Trial judge Juan Pedro Yllanes rejected those arguments, saying they promoted discrimination against women.
“This is degrading treatment of women,” the ruling said. The judge said that as a spiritual leader, who is aware of the influence he yields, Mr. Mustafa should have exercised caution in giving opinions about highly sensitive social issues.
The book enraged about 90 women’s groups, who in July, 2000, filed a lawsuit in a Barcelona court to have the book withdrawn. As a result of the court action, Mr. Mustafa’s book was removed from Islamic cultural centres in Spain. Some 3,000 copies of the book had been distributed freely throughout the country.
His lawyer, José Luis Bravo, said he would appeal the decision and described the sentence as “unfair and a result of the media pressure over the case.”
There is increasing public debate about domestic violence in Spain, where machismo remains strong. In 2003, 70 women were killed, and nearly 50,000 complaints were lodged with the police.
”Syria: Breaking taboo on violence against women,” Women in the Middle East, No. 43, May and June 2006.
Syria has broken a taboo by presenting a high profile study on violence against women, which found that one in four married women gets beaten -- usually by her husband or father. (Reuters)
The study, released by the state-run General Union of Women and funded by United Nations Development Fund for Women, sheds light on the nature and extent of violence against women in Syria.
The results of the Syrian survey appear in line with studies in Egypt, Britain and the United States, but campaigners said it breaks new ground simply by drawing attention to the issue.
"This was a courageous study because it touched upon the very sensitive subject of violence against women, which is an essential part for improving the status of women," said United Nations Development Fund for Women spokesman Aref Sheikh.
Violence against women in Syria tends to be a family affair. Over 70 percent of abusers are husbands, fathers or brothers while married women are most likely to get hit. Excuses for the violence range from neglecting house work to bombarding husbands with too many questions, the study found.
Less than one percent of surveyed women said they had been subjected to violence from a complete stranger. Encouraging a woman in Syria to report violence from family members is not easy, a Syrian lawmaker said.
Syrian law stipulates lenient sentences to men who murder women relatives suspected of having sex outside marriage in what is known as "honour killings." Other murderers usually get the death penalty or life without parole.
Some experts estimate that there are about 200 to 300 "honour" crimes a year in Syria, mostly in rural or nomadic communities. This means about half of murders committed in Syria every year are against women and in the name of honour. Reuters 2006.
Amnesty International, Turkey: Women confronting family violence, 2 June 2004.
Violence against women is an abuse of the human rights of women and girls which violates rights such as the right to mental and physical integrity, right to liberty and security of the person, freedom of expression and the right to choice in marriage. Violence may lead to treatment amounting to torture, to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and in extreme cases, may violate the right to life. Violence against women prevents the full enjoyment of rights and fundamental freedoms such as the right to health and employment. States which fail to protect women's rights may also be held accountable for violations because they have failed to prevent violence, to ensure adequate penal sanctions and provide redress.
Husbands, brothers, fathers and sons are responsible for most of these abuses. Sometimes they are acting on the orders of family councils, gatherings of family or clan elders who decide the "punishment" for women deemed to have infringed traditional codes of honour. Tradition all too often serves as a pretext for acts of brutality against women for daring to choose how to lead their lives. The underlying cause of the violence is discrimination that denies women equality with men in every area of life.
Violence against women is widely tolerated and even endorsed by community leaders and at the highest levels of the government and judiciary. The authorities rarely carry out thorough investigations into women’s complaints about violent attacks or murders or apparent suicides of women. Courts still reduce the sentences of rapists if they promise to marry their victim, despite recent moves to end the practice.
Individual women and groups working for human rights in Turkey have courageously exposed the culture of violence in which many women live and which is often invisible to the outside world. They help women to escape violent men and to hold their attackers to account. They confront the prejudices that hold women’s protests and complaints about ill-treatment to be shameful to the family. They seek to bring together deeply divided communities. Threats and assaults, from the families of women they support, face them daily. Women they assist are just the tip of the iceberg.
Ellen Wulfhorst, “Domestic Violence Takes Toll in Workplace,” Reuters, 18 August 2006.
New York - Victims of domestic violence suffer at work as well as home, losing costly work hours to distraction and absenteeism, new research shows.
Women who were victims in the last year lost an average of 249 work hours to distraction, some 40 percent more than non-victims, according to research presented this week to the Academy of Management.
"In many cases, getting the attention and involvement of for-profit business organizations will require a demonstration of the bottom line costs they incur," said the study by Carol Reeves, Collette Arens Bates and Anne O'Leary-Kelly of the University of Arkansas.
"This provides that type of evidence," it said. "Employers do not have to choose between minimizing their operating costs and 'doing the right thing.'"
So-called intimate partner violence costs nearly $1.8 billion in lost productivity a year, with nearly 8 million paid workdays lost, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Overall, about 40 percent of women and 29 percent of men reported violence from intimate partners at some point in their lives, said the study of almost 2,400 U.S. workers.
"Any time you have 40 percent of your work force dealing with something, I think that requires attention because that number is huge," Reeves said.
Ten percent said the violence took place in the past year and were most likely to suffer in job performance.
Distractions included difficulty concentrating, working slowly, having to do work over or doing no work at all. Male victims lost 244 hours a year to distraction, compared with 202 hours for non-victims, it said.
Women who suffered recent violence also missed 143 hours of work to tardiness or absenteeism, some 26 percent more than non-victims, it said.
In an effort to determine how many U.S. companies have programs to deal with the issue, a survey last year by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence found about a third of workers believed their company had such a program.
An anti-violence program at Liz Claiborne Inc. has handled over 80 cases in the last five years, although many of its 8,000 U.S. employees may have used its referral services without alerting the firm, spokeswoman Jane Randel said.
"People look for the black eye, but it's not always going to be that," she said. "Things aren't always exactly what they seem."
The program's assistance ranges from changing employees' telephone numbers to helping them relocate, she said.
"Our responsibility is to keep this person and those around her safe in the workplace," Randel said.
Of the recent victims in the study, one in five reported the problem reaching to their workplace, mostly by stalking.
The researchers surveyed employees at an insurance company, a transportation company and an educational institution. Their findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, a research and teaching organization with nearly 17,000 members.
Marie Tessier, “Hi-Tech Stalking Devices Extend Abusers' Reach,” Womens eNews, 10 January 2006.)
The case of a Seattle woman who was stalked by her estranged husband shows how controlling personalities can use cell phones, spyware and GPS technologies to terrorize their victims.
(WOMENSENEWS)--As Sherri Peak ran errands in suburban Seattle, she often saw her estranged husband in the rearview mirror of her Toyota Land Cruiser. Robert M. Peak showed up at her Bellevue business, at restaurants, at shops in downtown Seattle, and at the homes of co-workers.
In early 2006, trusting her instincts but unable to find a tracking device herself, Sherri Peak brought her SUV to the Bellevue, Wash., police. Two hours into an inspection assisted by immigration and customs agents, and on the verge of giving up, investigators popped off the dashboard.
Inside, they found a cell phone with a Global Positioning System, or GPS. The phone was hooked to the battery of the vehicle, and programmed to pick up silently whenever he called. Once the phone answered, her stalker could monitor the precise location of her SUV via the Internet.
Technology Assists Stalkers
As GPS systems get smaller and cheaper, and as cell phone and computer monitoring software becomes standard in families concerned about Internet safety, Sherri Peak's experience of intimate partner stalking is becoming more common, law enforcement officials and advocates say.
Type "spouse" combined with "track" or "spy" into any Internet search engine, and consumers are offered myriad products from hidden cameras to GPS devices to computer software, all at low prices. "Monitor any PC from anywhere!" one ad promises. "Catch a spouse in the act!" another says.
Safe cell phones and secure computers are often a central part of battered women's safety plans, as they seek to escape abuse. However, abusers increasingly are using phone records, computer software that displays every key typed, and other technologies to stalk, monitor, control and terrify their victims.
"For an abuser, it's all about power and control," says Cindy Southworth, director of technology at the National Network to End Domestic Violence in Washington, D.C. "Abusers have always monitored their victims and stalked them when they tried to leave, but now they can do it with new technologies."
Criminologists know that a stalking victim's terror is well founded. Studies have shown that stalking is a red flag showing a high risk of a woman's homicide. Nine out of 10 women killed by intimate partners have been stalked during the previous year, research shows. One-third of women stalked by a current or former partner are sexually assaulted, according to the National Institute of Justice, a government research office.
When police searched Robert Peak's home, they found Sherri Peak's e-mails, including correspondence with police and her divorce attorney, and the spyware program he had used to obtain them.
Access to House Keys and Passwords
They found passwords and account numbers he had hacked from her computer. They found a set of keys to the new locks Sherri Peak had put on her home. In August, Robert Peak was sentenced on felony stalking charges to eight months at King County Jail in Washington, according to the Seattle Times. He is on a work release program, but stays in jail at night and on weekends.
Robert Peak, through his attorney, declined to comment for this story.
In a similar case in Arizona last summer, the felony stalking conviction of former Major League Baseball outfielder Albert Belle exemplifies how 3 of every 4 stalking victims are terrorized by threats of violence or death at the same time that they are being monitored and followed.
Belle's ex-girlfriend told police that he was showing up "everywhere she went," such as the store, on dates, and at the gym. He left a phone message saying she needed to hire a bodyguard for protection and that she "would never know what hit her," according to news reports of court statements.
But it wasn't until she drove over a bump in the road and heard something fall off her car that the woman, whose identity has been kept out of the news, discovered the GPS device. Belle was sentenced to 90 days in jail after pleading guilty in July, according to TV network ESPN. The judge vowed to put him in prison if he ever contacted the woman again.
Stalking convictions like those of Belle and Robert Peak are increasing, but are still not routine.
Because infractions tend to happen over a long period of time, at varied times of the day, and often in a variety of jurisdictions, it is difficult and time-consuming for police and prosecutors to build a successful case, attorneys say. Even then, it is difficult for juries to grasp the depth of fear and control that perpetrators have created for a victim.
"When a victim presents herself to law enforcement, it doesn't necessarily look that dangerous," says Sandy Bromley, an attorney with the Stalking Resource Center at the National Center for Victims of Crime in Washington, D.C. "Individual incidents alone usually would not be criminal, but when you add them together in a pattern of following, calling and using technology to track a victim, it becomes a type of behavior that is designed to induce fear. And it works."
Advocates and law enforcement experts have two basic pieces of advice for people who think a partner or former partner has too much information about them. "First, trust your instincts," says Southworth of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. "If you think a partner or former partner knows too much about you, it's probably true."
Second, it can be critical to a woman's safety to avoid tipping off a stalker by disabling monitoring devices. Rather, a victim should work with law enforcement officials, a local domestic violence agency or the National Domestic Violence Hotline to develop a safety plan, advocates say.
In the digital age, a routine look at a computer's Web visit history could reveal a search for a new apartment, a new job or a new location, according to the Stalking Resource Center. Even making seemingly common sense moves such as searching for spyware and erasing it from a home computer can trigger an escalation in violence, advocates say. Such a move could also destroy evidence necessary to bring a criminal prosecution or to obtain a civil protection order.
In the meantime, pursuing a criminal case is a process that takes an average of two years, even as a woman lives in fear, Bromley says. It's also often necessary because research shows that stalkers are usually obsessive, difficult to deter and likely to escalate their behavior at any time.
And then a perpetrator is released from jail, as Robert Peak will be later this year. The Peaks' divorce is set to proceed early next year. Custody and visitation of their two children will be at issue.
"I would say this experience has been like being hostage in your own life, someone always knowing where you are, what you're doing," Sherri Peak says. "And it's a very, very scary thing."
Marie Tessier is an independent journalist who covers national affairs, and writes frequently about violence against women.
Frederic N. Tulsky, "Asylum Denied for Abused Girl. Ruling of Appeals Panel is Assailed," Washington Post, 4 July 1999.
A 16-year-old Mexican girl who says she endured a lifetime of abuse from her father is not entitled to asylum in the United States under current immigration laws and must be returned home, a federal immigration appeals board ruled last month in overturning a judge's asylum grant.
The June 17 decision by a three-judge Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) panel demonstrates again the panel's reluctance to read too broadly the laws govering asylum. But some advocates argue that it offers another example of the immigration system's insensitivity toward the special problems of children and women who flee to the United States seeking protection....
The latest decision heightens the controversy over the board's reluctance to add protections for children and women who are victims of domestic violence rather than political, ethnic or religious persecution. The board's action comes as officials in Canada, Britain and other countries have expanded their laws to include such protections, and it cited an earlier BIA decision.
The Global Persecution of Women