March 8 is International Women’s Day
The Arab News, "Saudi Arabia's First English Daily", is the official English language newspaper of the government. Perhaps in anticipation of Women's Day, they've finally broken their long silence:
Wife Beating: The Entire Family is Victimized
RIYADH, 19 February 2003 -- Wife beating is a widespread phenomenon in Saudi society.
Eighty-eight percent of violence against women results from differences of opinion, 69 percent because the husband refuses to allow the wife to travel and 82 percent because he won’t even let her outside the house.
Dr. Ahmad Al-Ameri, a Shariah expert, said there is a difference between violence in general and wife beating.
It is certainly against Islam to beat a good wife. An erring wife should be warned first and advised. If that does not work, then the husband could give her a light beating, the purpose of that being to embarrass rather than inflict pain.
The article, while very informative, was unclear on several points:
- If a wife attempts to travel, is warned, and cancels her plans, but then attempts to travel someplace else, must there be a separate warning or may she be lightly beaten immediately?
- If the wife's father, brothers, or other male relatives warn her about leaving the house during childhood, must the husband warn her again as a married adult, or may he proceed to lightly beat her, based on the earlier warning?
- Are blanket warnings such as "do not travel to the market, your friend's house, or anywhere else" permitted? What about pre-emptive warnings if you think the wife is thinking about leaving the house? General-purpose or pre-emptive warnings would be very efficient, and they would save the husband the trouble of remembering if he's issued a warming or not. Such savings would almost certainly result in lighter beatings for the wife.
- Finally, a suggestion: perhaps the government would consider a future article discussing what is meant by a "light" beating. For example, is it permitted to beat the wife with her own shoe, so long as it doesn't break the skin?