A recently released government report has provided new insights into attitudes about the acceptability of domestic violence in Qatar.
Some 16 percent of men and 7 percent of women living in Qatar say a husband is justified in “hitting or beating” their wives in certain circumstances, namely if the woman leave the house without telling her spouse or if she neglects their children, according to the Ministry of Development & Planning Statistics.
The findings are contained in a wide-ranging report on the well-being of women and children that also looks at breastfeeding rates, educational attainment and reproductive health, among other topics, based on surveys conducted in 2012.
According to the report’s authors, questions on domestic violence were asked to gain “an indication of cultural beliefs that tend to be associated with the prevalence of violence against women by their husbands.”
The results cover responses from 5,699 women and 5,630 men between the ages of 15 and 49, and includes both opinions of expats and nationals.
Acceptance of wife beating was highest among Qatari males, with slightly more than one out of five saying it was justified in some scenarios.
Among non-Qatari men, 13.7 percent felt the same way. Young males between the ages of 15 and 19 years old were the most likely to say they believed domestic abuse in the form of hitting or beating was OK.
Men who had attended university were less likely to find the practice acceptable than their peers with less education.
Female respondents to the survey expressed far less support of the idea.
Some 6.2 percent of Qatari women said a husband can be justified in beating in his wife, compared to 6.7 percent of non-Qatari women living in the country. Acceptance is higher among women with less education.
The correlation between a woman’s level of education and tolerance of wife beating was also highlighted in a similar, smaller study conducted in 2012 by Qatar University that looked exclusively at the local population.
That report found much higher rates of acceptance of spousal abuse, with 35.6 percent of men and 29.8 percent of women saying it was justified in some circumstances.
Domestic violence laws
Senior government officials have long called for a reduction in domestic violence incidents, which is perceived to have risen in recent years.
In 2012, the Qatar Foundation for Protection of Women and Children was recording an average of nearly four cases of abuse daily.
Legislation that specifically outlaws domestic violence has been in the works for more than two years, but has not yet led to any new laws.
Currently, cases of spousal and child abuse are covered under general assault laws, which experts say hinders investigations into violence that takes place in the home.
There has been no recent discussions about the status of Qatar’s draft law, although GCC officials said earlier this month that Gulf officials are considering a region-wide approach to the problem, starting with the establishment of a human rights office at the GCC headquarters in Riyadh.
Human rights advocates have pressured governments across the Gulf to do more to protect women from domestic violence.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia drew praise for a powerful public awareness campaign that featured billboards of a veiled woman with a bruised eye. The English version features the words, “Some things can’t be covered.”
However, Human Rights Watch last year questioned whether the country was serious about ending domestic violence after a Saudi court convicted two activists who had attempted to assist a woman and her child who had been confined to their home with inadequate food and water.
Here’s the full report (the domestic violence section begins on p.108):
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