Where families suffer in silence

Good reporting talks to us about what matters. It questions. It points us towards answers. It makes us wonder about our lives, our communities.

Here is a story about domestic violence in Jordan from Ammanet that takes these steps; a good example of reporting that gives us context and helps us to see what needs to be done.

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–        Only 5 out of 17,000 cases considered by family reconciliation committees since 2008

–        Law on Protection from Domestic Violence failing to protect the family

–        Laws in contradiction with separation of powers

–        Courts neglecting to use the law

27-year-old Sofia’s husband abuses her in myriad ways: from beating her on the face to kicking, throwing coffee and hot tea at her, cutting her hair forcibly and threatening to kill her, brandishing a knife in her face.

A slim-figured, fresh-faced native of Amman, Sofia was married five years ago – and has lived in humiliation and insult ever since. She once thought married life would be filled with bliss and mutual respect. “I spent the flower of my youth on our time close together… only for him to defame my honor with the ugliest words.”

“He gives me a dinar and I spend it at home. He spends all his income on drinks. Sometimes there is no bread at home,” said Sofia, who said her husband won’t provide for the family. She does domestic work to feed her two children. When her husband learns of this, he accuses her of prostitution.

Sofia first complained to the Department of Family Protection (DFP) in September 2010. She received no opportunity to present her case until her fourth attempt in 2013 – by then, the abuse had been going on for four years. She brought a medical report stating that she’d been beaten by her husband, but was shocked by the DFP employee’s reply: “Your solution is to go to the shari’a court. Get divorced.”

Sofia refused to divorce her husband.Instead, she wanted follow-up visits and protection from the violence.

The DFP only labeled her husband a perpetrator of violence, asking him to sign a pledge not to further harm against her – but he never showed up. After all Sofia’s communication with the DFP, her husband only beat his wife and children more than ever before.

DFP Director of Public Relations Naji Al-Bataineh said that although his administration possesses full law enforcement powers, they did not go after the violent husband because this would exacerbate inner family problems, especially since the crime did not require arrest or detainment.

Sofia is one of 12,000 cases that the Ministry of Social Development has left without any follow up since 1998, according to DFP reports in the East Amman administration’s files.

This investigation reveals that the 2008 Law on Protection from Domestic Violence is weak, defective and unimplemented. Successive governments have failed to implement the law and to form the family reconciliation committees to whom the DFP and courts are supposed to pass domestic violence cases. All follow-up actions depend on this process, without which 32,000 cases of domestic violence reviewed by the DFP in the last 4 years will continue without solution or redress.

Without a national register of domestic violence cases, it is difficult to quantify the true size of the problem for abused women in Jordan. The Ministry of Social Development’s numbersindicate approximately 4100 cases of domestic abuse in 2013. DFP statistics, in contrast, show approximately 7500 in the same year, whereas the National Committee for omen’s Affairs reports 2100 cases.

25-year-old Samira (name changed for protection) was raped by her employer and threatened with death by her brother after she’d given birth to a child from the rape. She turned to the DFP, seeking not to become a victim of “honor crime” accusations. The DFP sent her to a family reconciliation house.

After Samira had lived in the house for two years, the director of the house entered her room one morning, asking her to get out of bed, change quickly, leave her son and go to the DFP for case review.

The DFP decided to remove Samira from the house as a solution to her problem. But Samira was under a death threat and refused to leave. “How can you ask me to leave? I don’t have any place to go,” she said. The response: “There will be a shelter for you.”

No administrators found a shelter for Samira. She returned to where she’d been.

The story continues: