Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Study Reveals Domestic Abuse Is Widespread in Syria ; the First Study of Its Kind in the Country Shows 25 Percent of Women May Be Victims of Violence

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Study Reveals Domestic Abuse Is Widespread in Syria ; the First Study of Its Kind in the Country Shows 25 Percent of Women May Be Victims of Violence

Article excerpt

This country's only shelter for abused women is largely a secret. Victims learn about it through local churches, aid agencies, or lawyers. It has just 10 beds for the 22 people who were recently staying there.

But a new study released earlier this month that says as many as 1 in 4 Syrian women may be victims of physical violence is beginning to reveal just how widespread a problem domestic abuse is throughout the country.

The study, funded by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and conducted by the state-run General Union of Women, is the first of its kind to try to quantify and explain the types of violence Syrian women face.

"Violence is in every home in the Arab world," says a woman who works at the shelter and asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of their work.

"The number of abused women is more than 1 in 4. We hope that with a hotline we'll be able to help the largest number of women possible. We hope we can provide these women with a type of hope so they can know themselves and can rebuild their self-esteem," she says.

The shelter is currently working on acquiring a larger home and is trying to set up a hotline for domestic abuse. There are no domestic abuse hotlines in Syria.

Women's rights activists pin the problem of violence against women on societal shame associated with divorce, a lack of education on what exactly abuse entails, a shortage of shelters, and weak laws that fail to protect women who face abuse.

"There is a type of traditional thinking that it's [shameful] to go to the police with such problems," says Maen Abdul-Salam, who heads Etana Press, a publishing house dedicated to women's issues. "Families usually feel ashamed. They don't want to talk about it. There needs to be more education to change the mentality."

The study of nearly 1,900 families found that violence against women was more prevalent in the countryside than in cities, that domestic abuse was more likely to happen in homes facing economic hardship and in homes where men were less educated or where women married at very young ages.

Yahya Aous, the editor of Thara.com, a website dedicated to women's issues, says a major problem is that many women are not even aware that they may be victims. …

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