Social Norms Part I: Violence Against Women

Social Norms Part I: Violence Against Women
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I have been thinking for quite a while now that as Arabs we do tend to bend toward our social and cultural norms, there are times (and those times are many) that we deviate away from those norms but one way or another seem to come back and bend to those norms.


I was talking to a good friend about this a few days back and he said I should blog about it, my initial reaction was no, I won’t. To me social norms may be imposed by society and our culture but that’s the bigger picture, on a more personal level I believe the norms imposed in my life starts at home, with my parents, expanding to my extended family. So here I am, left clueless of what our Social Norms are:
I remember a few years I go I read a story about a girl called Samia, who got married and within six years of her marriage, her dream of a happy-ever-after turned into quite a nightmare. The article was published on October 17th 2010 on Ammon News (http://en.ammonnews.net/article.aspx?articleno=4336) and was called “Challenging social norms, more abused Jordanian women seek help” and reflected the life of Samia who hasn’t revealed her husband’s name to protect her self. Her husband who seemed to have built a temper as he was facing financial hardships took his rage out on his wife, punched her in the face once, and turned it into a habit of daily beatings until she was courageous to file for divorce.
At the time the article has started that “Samia is just one of the 350 cases of abused women registered each year in Jordan, according to official statistics released by the Ministry of Social Development.”, I felt anger for those women, frustration and figured that women, children and humans are not to be treated that way, beatings, abuse and violence is pure terror and no one wants to live like that forever, but I couldn’t help but refer back to the subject line and become more angry, is seeking divorce because of an abused marriage challenging social norms, or is it just normal?
See Jordan is a small country, technically speaking, for those of you who are Ammani’s like myself, you know what they say about Amman, it’s too small that everyone seems to know everyone, and honestly speaking that is kind of the community we live in, but why do our social norms have to be so negative, so violent and so pleasant?
Crimes of Honor are horrible, heinous crimes against women that I really hope one day will be abolished, but should we be calling them social norms? Is it a social norm for women to be killed by their husbands and their families? Is it challenging a social norm for a woman to seek divorce to walk away from an abused marriage? If so, is it considered a social norm for men to abuse their wives? Don’t get me wrong, I have read my fair share of stories of women who are so obnoxious to their husbands and they abuse them verbally and sometimes physically but is that what a social norm is?
Deep inside I understand why women don’t come forward and report abuse, I blame the society and the community just like you will, most people will say she shouldn’t, she will become the talk of town, and you know what yes she will, but that’s not wrong, should women live in deep terror so they are not the talk of town. But furthermore, I blame the government, our legislation and the way we think?
One week ago, I was in Lebanon with my best friend and her family, and her aunt had to get a paper from her husband stating that their son is allowed to travel with his mother? What kind of social norm is that? The parents are not divorced, where I could rectify such a statement because divorces can get messy, but how do you ask a perfectly happy couple to issue a piece of paper to allow the child to travel with his mother. How come the mother does not have to give her permission to her husband if he were to travel alone with his child?
Which brings me to wonder, women are encouraged to report suspected violence in their domestic homes, many women who suspect that they could be potential victims of crimes of honor have a lot of nerve and guts to report their suspicion? About a year ago I was shocked to learn that women who report abuse and that are scared that they could be a victim of a heinous crime are put in a special prison “for protection”. How do you protect someone by locking them in? Don’t you protect people by locking in the people who want to harm them? Is this a social norm that we do it the other way round?
What do you think?

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Director of Digital Marketing Strategy by Day, Blogger by Night. Mother to my lovely Hana and a food addict.

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Comments

  1. Having been called a misanthrope on several occasions, I really don’t think I’m fully eligible to comment on any post that begins with the word Social. However, I do have a few general reflections on the matter.

    Any action or tradition that is considered a “best practice” by the collective society is what you can consider a “social norm”. For example, an Arab man kissing another on the cheek is a social norm. This, I believe, is also dependent on the true nature of their relationship and the time they spent apart. A single adult male living with his mother/parents is yet another norm. Etc…

    Spousal abuse, honor killing, unfair legislations, etc… is not really the norm. Those who condone them, along with those who commit them, are malignant tumors in our society and sooner or later they’ll have to be removed. We as people are becoming more aware, more opinionated, and more demanding of what is rightfully ours, the right to live free, without prejudice, without fear, and without malignant tumors.

    Social norms are far from static. They might be modified, enhanced, or rendered useless as time goes by, simply because of our innate ability and need to adapt to our environment. Norms are created by people, and as long as the sun rises from the east, they’ll continue to change. Malignant tumors will also be there; however, the stronger we are as a society, the faster we can get rid of them.

    According to one artist: “Let us not talk about the past for it is full of sorrows” – what we really need is a systemic approach to dealing with the tumors of the society and the enemies of our growth as a peace loving, freedom seeking nation.

  2. WTF!!!

  3. This is so depressing. It is hard to keep looking up for a better future when these on-the-ground realities intrude.

    How to change a mindset that a woman is a possession, a valid receptacle for rage, lust and honor. When will men learn that they can control themselves? When will women learn not to buy into the lie?

  4. “How do you protect someone by locking them in? Don’t you protect people by locking in the people who want to harm them?” – Well, I have to disagree. You don’t lock people up for suspicion that they might do a crime. This is not how the law works, nor the way it should work.

    Locking people and sending them to prison for a crime they did not commit is unlawful and dangerous.

    However, I agree that prisons are not suitable for protection. Usually, there should be a system of providing shelters, or having police or body-guards to accompany someone who fears for their life. Restraining orders can also be useful.

  5. I think it is important to note that abusing women is NOT a social norm in Jordan. For one, one of the most powerful women in the world is Queen Rania of Jordan. This shows that women have a major role in the Jordanian society and are not being terrorized, as you state. Secondly, I agree that it is wrong for men to abuse their wives, but in reality that happens in every country. Just because that occurs in Jordan, does not mean that it should be labeled as a country whose social norms consist of abusing their women. Rather, each individual should be held accountable for their actions, instead of blaming the entire society. In fact, Jordan (and the Middle East, for that matter)is a predominantly Islamic country, and in Islam it is forbidden for a man to abuse his wife. This should be the underlying factor that argues against it being a social norm. Having lived in Jordan for three years, I have to agree that people there are not very open-minded, however I strongly disagree that abusing women is a social norm in the Jordanian society because women play a primary role in society and in the family, as well. If anything, it would be going against the social norms by abusing women.

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