Violence, when is it ever justified? I am sure many breathed a sigh of relief to hear the news of the amendments to the Islamic Family Law Order and the Married Women's Act Order by the Attorney General Chambers. I know I did.
With this move comes a boost of power for related agencies (Royal Brunei Police Force, Syariah Department and Community Development Department (Japem)) whom are given "extra powers" to exercise.
Japem and the RBPF, in particular the Women and Children Abuse Investigation Unit, has been doing quite a good job of promoting awareness on domestic violence in the past few years.
Out of 300 cases handled by the unit, 160 were on domestic violence alone with victims being mostly women and this is only the cases reported. We all know that this figure is just the tip of the iceberg.
The bulk of cases I feel is underreported, especially if one takes into account our culture of silence or rather the mindset of "inda mau malu kalau orang tau" (we don't want to be embarrassed if people know).
From off the record interviews I learn that most women retract their report because of advice from family members or they feel pity for their perpetrator.
This culture and mindset is one of the biggest challenge for us to break through. The question is, wherein does the problem lie? Where did we, as a nation proud of our strong family values, go wrong?
It has been reported that most of the victims would rather stay in an abusive marriage because the perpetrator is usually the sole provider hence if they leave, they will have no means to support themselves and their children, if any.
Are all victims of abuse uneducated and unemployed? Not always. From off the record interviews, some victims are women with high profile careers, who earn more than their husbands, and this is also the reason why they prefer to keep "silent".
Why? For fear of causing shame to their families who are usually well-known. They also do not wish for their colleagues or friends to find out because people talk and such a story would undermine their status in society.
There are also those (Muslims) who are made to believe that if they speak up they are being derhaka (disloyal) to the husband. I do not think that if a wife, fearing for her life or that of her children, seeks help from outside, is being derhaka. In fact, I think she is being smart.
Some decide to return to their husbands because of love. Really? I believe in real love and I also believe in forgiveness. Most of all, I believe in mutual respect.
So it is understandable if the abuse happened only once, or maybe twice and both parties decide to try and work things out but when it happens for the third time and more, then what? There is no love in abuse and violence.
There is a cliche saying that goes "If it happens once, shame on him but if it happens twice, shame on you" which is very fitting in these kinds of circumstances.
There is the cycle of abuse or violence from the point of attack to the honeymoon phase and the calm period which has the power to trap the victim. It's like a domestic enchantment of verbal, psychological, emotional and physical abuse and it's up to us to break it.
What has to happen before the victim finally realises that the perpetrator will never change and that it is not in her power to change such a person. Does someone have to die? In most countries, violence escalate to the point of murder.
Although I've never heard or read of such cases happening in Brunei this doesn't mean that it will never happen.
As a Muslim woman, whenever I hear about abusive marriages or even relationships I can't help but get really angry and emotional.
Where do the men get off inflicting pain upon the woman whom they have vowed to love and protect during the akad nikah (solemnisation of marriage)? I feel that women really need to be empowered to understand their worth, rights, roles and responsibilities best to start this at a young age, actually so that it is deeply ingrained.
Yes, even men do get abused so there really has to be a balanced. Men must also know of their rights and responsibilities, especially in the family.
First and foremost, the men (husbands, fathers, sons and brothers) are protectors of the women (and girls) the women ARE always the protected. When they marry a woman, they take the woman out from a home and undertake the duties of the woman's father and brother as the sole protector.
I get especially angry when a man who resort to beating do it under the name of Islam. Do not use the words of Allah SWT or Prophet Muhammad SAW to validate your actions. Seriously, where in the Al-Quran and hadiths does it encourage men to hurt women?
As far as I know, Muslim husbands are allowed to discipline their wives if they commit sinful behaviour such as flirting with others through: admonishing them on their behaviour; then if she is still disobedient to keep away from them as in sleeping in separate beds; and, if this is not effective then it is permissible to hit them but lightly as to not leave a mark on them or cause injury.
I stress on the word "lightly". Most abuse/violence cases are not even justified.
There is a simple but powerful hadith of the Prophet Muhammad SAW as related by Tirmidhi reads: "The most perfect of the believers is the best of you in character, and the best of you are those among you who are best to their wives."
The best defence against domestic abuse and violence, in my opinion, is knowledge. We really need to equip our girls and our women with knowledge that they have rights too, especially in Islam where the status of women has been elevated. We may not be as equal in terms of strengths, roles and responsibilities but we are all equal in the eyes of Allah SWT.
In the end, regardless of sex, gender, religion, age, we are above all human so we have the right to live and exist without fear.
-The Brunei Times/Asia News Network