Do you know that wife-beating was legal and a very common practice in almost all countries prior to the mid-1800s? Most legal systems viewed wife-beating as a valid exercise of a husband’s authority over his wife?
Women and children were seen as ‘belonging’ to a man, therefore controlling of his wife and children in the form of physical violence or punishment by a man were acceptable in religious and civil laws of all societies.
Legal Documents from the Medieval Age from different regions support wife-beating was legally allowed to ‘control, correct, support and instruct’ the wife by her husband.
During the 1800s, wife beating was extremely common in Britain. In the 1700s, an English common law came into effect that decreed that a husband had the right to “chastise his wife with a whip or rattan no bigger than his thumb, to enforce domestic discipline. For as he is to answer for her misbehavior, the law thought it reasonable to entrust him with this power of restraining her, by domestic chastisement in the same moderation that a man is allowed to correct his apprentices or children.” This law came to be known as the “law of thumb”.
In the U.S.the courts continued to uphold a man’s right to punish his wife with violence until 1871. In his article “Wife Beating: An American Tradition”, David Peterson explores the history, social conditions and possible causes of wife-beating, during the mid to late 19th century.
Even today, there are still 46 countries where women do not have any legal protection against domestic violence. Data shows 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in her lifetime mostly by intimate partners.
It is a grave reality that women are not safe even at home in most of the places in this world. In many countries either there is no law to protect women from domestic violence, or there are existing laws which emphasis violence against women.
Surprising Facts on Honor Killing/ Wife Beating/ Marital Rape Laws in Different Parts of the World:
In Nigeria, the beating of a wife for ‘the purpose of correction’ is legal by use of (Section 55 (1) (d) of the Penal Code)!
In Russia, in 2017, domestic violence was re-classified from a criminal to an administrative offence. Under new legislation abusers can avoid jail time, and instead pay fine, and if the victim has suffered no lasting harm, such as a broken bone or concussion, if it was not a repetitive offence. Men are legally allowed to batter their wives without causing hospitalization!
In Egypt, the law allows a man to kill his wife if he catches her in an act of adultery.
In Saudi Arabia and some other Arab countries, there is no law against domestic violence against women. Rape victims risk being charged with adultery. Surveys in Egypt, Palestine, Israel and Tunisia show that at least one out of three women is beaten by her husband. Beating wives are often justified by some religious laws and are considered as personal or family affairs where victims never receive support from health care professionals or law enforcement. A survey conducted by the Government of Egypt showed a huge percentage of young women thought to beat the wives for “talking back” to a husband, talking to another man, spending too much money, burning the dinner is acceptable.
In Lebanon, any man who commits a “kidnapping, rape or statutory rape can’t be prosecuted as long as he marries the victim afterwards.”
In Malta, the law says“after abducting a person, shall marry such person, he shall not be liable to prosecution,”! If the marriage occurs after a trial and conviction, the abductor’s sentence is immediately revoked.
In India, marital rape, when the wife and husband live together is not considered to be a crime.
It is needless to mention that having laws do not guarantee that laws are enforced properly or accessible to all women. A huge number of domestic violence cases against women go unreported world wide. Even in developed countries with strict laws, women do not report a majority of the incidences because of social, economic and various other reasons.
In developing countries, women have poor access to education and consequently to economic freedom. They are more likely to be financially dependent on their husbands, and less likely to report assaults to the police. Women taking legal actions against their husbands are not acceptable in many societies. In some places, especially in rural areas, even the law enforcement or the community leaders support the abusers.
But when legal systems can not protect women from being abused, assaulted or killed by family members; how can we possibly dream of creating a world free from oppression and violence against women? I think a lot still need to be done before we reach the global goal of gender equality by 2030.
Resources for the Victims
Are you dealing with violence, abuses or torture but not in a situation to escape ? Don’t have any support system?
Here are some country-wise resources and link of the websites helping the victims of domestic violence and sexual violence:
1. http://www.naasca.org/Groups-Services/NIGERIA.pdf – You will find a list of non-Profit, Non-Governmental Organizations working in different states of Nigeriato protect women’s rights and children rights, for the survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
2. Women’s Crisis Care International(WCCI) is the first and only violence- crisis response center in the Arabian Gulf.WCCI provides violence -crisis response services for victims of domestic and sexual abuse in Bahrain. They also provide emotional support and informational support for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence. All services are free and confidential and open to all women.
3. El Nadeem Centre For Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence works with victims of torture in Egypt, Other than helping female victims of torture, El Nadeem is also involved in addressing other forms of violence against women. Links to their social media pages and hotline are available through their website.
4. HarassMap is a volunteer-based working to end the social acceptability of sexual harassment in Egypt. They aim to create an environment where sexual harassment is not tolerated. HarassMap is working on different projects to tackle and document sexual harassment of women not only in Egypt, but also in many other countries.
5. https://www.naaree.com/how-to-report-domestic-violence-in-india-call-these-helplines/ – has a comprehensive list of domestic violence help lines and contact details organizations working for women’s rights in different parts of India.
6. Domestic Violence Resource Network (DVRN) is funded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services to inform and strengthen domestic violence intervention and prevention efforts at the individual, community and societal levels. Their websitr provides a wide range of free, comprehensive and individualized technical assistance, training and resource materials for survivors of domestic violence among different population.
7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_domestic_violence_hotlines – has list of Domestic Violence hotline number and website links of resources in Australia, China, Japan, Taiwan, NewZealand, United Kingdom and USA.
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