Increased community acceptance in the UAE that domestic violence is intolerable is gauged by the significant rise in the reporting of such cases, according to Afra Al Basti, Executive Director of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWC), the first-licensed shelter in the UAE for victims of domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking.
She added: “An increase in the number of people seeking help reflects women’s willingness to break their silence, unlike the past. Earlier, people were hesitant to report what was considered an internal family matter.”
Al Basti’s comments came during a Tuesday evening seminar on “Domestic Violence in the UAE.” The event was organized for policy makers, scholars and community leaders by DSG’s Gender and Public Policy Program.
Dr. May Al-Dabbagh, Director of the Gender and Public Policy Program, moderated the seminar, which also examined the legal structures that need to be instituted for addressing such issues, as well as current policies in the UAE and their limitations.
Lack of data was pointed out as one of the main challenges facing DFWC and similar organizations, including government institutions, according to Al Basti. As part of its endeavor to close the gap, the Foundation and its partners aim to launch a nationwide study on domestic violence that will assess the magnitude of the problem. This survey will be the first of its kind to be conducted in the UAE.
Dr. May Al-Dabbagh said: “Raising both social and legal awareness on the issue is imperative to help combat domestic violence. Ignorance of the laws makes women and children more vulnerable to acts of violence. Outreach is an important component of the work of the Gender and Public Policy Program at DSG. Through our seminar series, we raise awareness on critical issues faced by women in the UAE.”
The UAE government prioritizes the prevention of violence and exploitation of women and children’s rights. In March, Dubai Police held a specialized training program to enable female officers to reach out to victims of domestic abuse and encourage reporting.
Afra Al Basti said: “No longer can we think of domestic abuse as a taboo subject. We cannot have a healthy society unless we ensure a cohesive and safe family unit. Despite government outreach programs and civil society organizations playing a vital role in spearheading successful initiatives to reverse the trend, there is much to be done in our battle against domestic violence and abuse of rights.”