Domestic violence against women

By: Mohammad Elias Samimi

Abusive behavior by one partner over another in a relationship is inhuman. Domestic violence, a destructive phenomenon in Afghan society, affects mainly women and may include sexual, spiritual, and physical abuse.  Based on recent Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (2018) data, 4,340 cases of domestic violence were recorded. These cases included verbal abuse and physical beating, injuring, burning, and poisoning.  From a total of 4,340 reported cases, 1,420 (32.7%) were physical and 1317 cases verbal/psychological (30.3%). Reported domestic violence cases increased 17% compared to 2017 indicating a social human rights issue. Illiteracy, poverty, and lack of the rule of law are leading causes that must be addressed.

Illiteracy in a society is its overall low level of knowledge. Due to the lack of literacy, most Afghans lack knowledge about their own and others’ rights and obligations.  According to 2019 World Bank statistics, only 43% of the Afghanistan’s population above 15 years old is literate. Conservative Afghan customs and traditions set the norms in society. In rural districts, a long held common belief is that men should dominate women. The AIHRC (2018) reported 90.3% of cases of domestic violence were committed by men. This fundamental belief opens the door for misusing power and leads to domestic violence against women and girls. Arthur and Clark (2009) point out in The Patriarchal Theory, a custom or belief that males should be dominant persists because they have dominated societies throughout history, and women have been treated as men’s possessions. Indeed, illiteracy must be confronted, and the ability see to other points of view such as equality of the sexes should be taught in schools. Teaching it could reduce a predisposition toward domestic violence.  

Depriving females of the right to education drives violence in homes. It violates a girl and woman’s fundamental right to access knowledge and understanding. Lack of education correlates with other issues such as economic dependency, which keeps a woman locked at home for survival. With no education or training, she will not have job skills. Skills are needed to make an income and be able to escape violence in the home. As Arthur and Clark (2009) describe, deprivation of women from education hinders women to compete with men in an academic or professional area because of lack of knowledge and skills, and economic dependency decreases women’s educational, economic, social, and political resources. Currently, in Afghanistan only 29% of women are literate (World Bank, 2019). Domestic violence is reduced when female education is promoted. Knowledge and skills open the door for a job. A job lessens economic dependency, which in turn may decrease the occurrence of staying in a home with the threat of domestic abuse. Both men and women can contribute to economic prosperity, so opportunities for female education will better society and help stop aggression toward women.   

Gender-based discrimination as well arises from a lack of knowledge and economic dependency.  Arthur and Clark (2009) state that a lack of knowledge and economic dependency causes isolation. In Afghanistan as women are economically dependent on men who work. Income and access to economic resources gives men a higher position in the family and society as a whole. Women are isolated and vulnerable to a man’s belief that his job is to control. She may have to argue or fight with a spouse for food, clothing, or even shelter.  As most males are stronger, they may use physical violence to settle disputes. As Purvin (2007, p. 3) reports, “Women of all socioeconomic backgrounds often remain in abusive situations because of economic dependence on male partners.” In Afghan society, female illiteracy and unequal access to economic resources keep women isolated, and men have more bargaining power, which Arthur and Clark (2009) assert causes domestic violence in a relationship. Although economic dependency limits gender equality and gives a better position to Afghan men, these men may experience excessive mental pressure. In poor households where a man with a low income is bearing all the expenses alone, he may break mentally, feel angry, and lash out with violent language or behavior against family members, including his spouses and children. Allowing women access to education and jobs is a vital part of reducing domestic violence.

Illiteracy is not the only reason. Poverty dominates most of of Afghan society and results in domestic violence. The overall economic level of Afghan families is low, and most families lack their basic economic needs. Based on data collected from Statista (2020), in 2019 the yearly income per capita in Afghanistan was $513, which is poverty level. Purvin (2007) describes that violence and abuse cases against women can occur in any segment of society by intimate partners, but for low-income women, the cases are more prevalent. Most cases of violence in Afghanistan have been recorded in low-income households. A study by Eswaran and Malhotra (2010) provides evidence that domestic violence cases happen more in poor Afghan households relative to middle and upper-income households. Again, although men may be against it because of traditional culture, allowing Afghan women to attend school and find work may lift families out of the cycle of poverty and help stem the spiraling epidemic of domestic violence.

Lack of the rule of law makes the situation even worse. Domestic violence can be eliminated, or at least reduced in Afghanistan if the rule of law is implemented against every abusive member of the society. Based on the Exchange Theory stated in Arthur and Clark (2009), domestic violence is particular to societies where the cost of committing a violent crime is low, and police interruption is low in domestic violence cases. In Afghanistan lack of dealing with perpetrators, the culture of impunity, and corruption are the reasons for domestic violence (AIHRSC, 2018). A study was conducted by Lawrence Sherman in 1982 (as cited in Bosede, 2013) to evaluate the effectiveness of police response to domestic violence calls. The result shows that in cases that police reacted and arrested the offender, the rate was reduced to half of re-offending against the same victim within the following six months (Bosede, 2013). In 2018, some 361 cases were resolved through mediation, 153 victims were introduced to shelter houses, and 194 domestic violence cases were referred to police by Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). While out of 194 cases referred to police, 136 cases were addressed by handing over to prosecution, and 42 cases were referred to the courts. Currently, we have laws to prevent domestic violence but little implementation. Civil society requires government to enforce laws that have been enacted to curb domestic violence.

Domestic violence, experienced mostly by Afghan women, violates a partner’s right to safety and health in a family relationship. It leaves mental, spiritual, and physical scars on its victims. Men have dominated societies in history, and domestic violence, as a destructive phenomenon, affects societies worldwide. It is an essential social human right issue, and among Afghan men and the society they live in violence against women must steadily be reduced in Afghanistan until it is eliminated. Everyone, male and female, is responsible for taking part in eliminating the phenomenon and helping the victims, but the primary responsibility rests on the shoulders of its governments to play a crucial role in eliminating the poverty, illiteracy, and lack of rule law that promote it. To decrease the number of cases of domestic violence in Afghanistan, we must educate all females, create opportunities for income sources for women to help them step out of isolation and economic dependency, implement the rule of law against offenders, and develop programs to raise social awareness of men and women about the rights and privileges of others.  

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