Minister Lulu Xingwana (the Minister for Children,Women and people with Disabilities) in collaboration with the National Religious Leaders Council (NRLC) has arranged a “Focus Week-End” this week starting on Friday, 1 Nov – Sunday, 3 Nov 2013 to highlight “Violence against women & children”
Various faith groups would participate in the campaign to highlight the abuse of women, children and people with disabilities among their specific congregations.
South Africa faces a globally unprecedented problem ofviolence against women and children. With rates of homicide, rape as well as childhood and domestic violence far above those of other countries, the problem of violence is undermining our nation’s economic and social development. The problem is so severe that it affects people from all walks of life regardless of socio-economic status, ethnicity, age and religion. Preventing and reducing levels of violence has been a missing piece in the national transformation agenda. It needs to be addressed vigorously as a national priority.
The Extent of the Problem
The killing of a woman by her partner is the most extreme consequence of domestic violence. According to a survey analysis by the South African Medical Research Council, “… in 2009 one woman was killed by a partner every eight hours in South Africa.” (Research Brief, August 2012)
Statistics reveal that over half the women of Gauteng (51.2%) have experienced some form of abuse (emotional, physical or sexual) in their lifetime and 78.3% of men in the province admit to perpetrating some form of violence against women. (The War @ Home, SA Medical Research Council, 2010)
In a research study, 28% of men reported having perpetrated rape.
Rape mostly starts in the teenage years; three quarters of men who rape do it for the first time before the age of 20.
Men are also rape victims; about one in 30 men (3.5%) have been raped by a man.
Violence against children:
More than a third of girls have experienced sexual violence before the age of 18 (e.g. unwanted touching, forced sex or being exploited into sex by much older men).
15% of children report occasions in their lives when one or both parents were too drunk to care for them, and one in two children experience emotional abuse, neglect or witness violence against their mothers at home.
The most immediate impact of violence on health is seen in our health facilities, where an estimated 1.75 million people annually seek health care for injuries resulting from violence.
Women who have been raped are at risk of unwanted pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Over a third of them develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which if untreated persists in the long term and depression, suicidal tendencies and substance abuse are common.
Children who have been exposed to emotional, sexual and physical violence are at an increased risk of contracting HIV as well as suffering from depression, suicidal tendencies and even becoming substance abusers.
Why the problem of violence?
Poverty and social inequity are key drivers of violence. Inequality in access to wealth and opportunity results in feelings of low self-esteem, which are channelled into anger and frustration. Violence is often used to gain the sought after respect and power, whether through violent robbery, rape, severe punishment of children or violence against partners.
Widespread exposure of children to violence promotes anti-social behaviour. In South Africa, growing up as a child in a home with two biological parents is increasingly unusual. A majority of children are born outside marriage and there is generally no expectation of fathers having a social involvement in the lives of these children. Frequently, children are raised by family members who are not their biological parents. Without their parent’s protection, children are extremely vulnerable to abuse and neglect.
Studies have shown that girls who were exposed to physical, sexual and emotional trauma as children are at increased risk of re-victimisation as adults. Exposure of boys to abuse, neglect or sexual violence in childhood greatly increases the chance of their being violent as adolescents and adults, and reduces their ability to form enduring emotional attachments.
Widespread abuse of alcohol and drugs is another key factor. South Africa has one of the highest per capita alcohol consumption levels per drinker in the world. Many of acts of violence occur after alcohol and drug abuse, especially fights, some types of homicide and rape. Many victims of violence are also rendered vulnerable by alcohol.
Law enforcement in South Africa is generally very weak. Few perpetrators are effectively punished, with the result that laws fail to provide deterrence and victims often have little faith in the system. In addition to this, there has been a conspicuous lack of stewardship and leadership in the area of violence prevention from Government, despite the massive problem violence poses to the country.
(South African Medical Research Council Policy Brief, November 2009)
The Islamic Solution – Kind treatment towards others is a sign of piety
While domestic violence exists in both Muslim and non-Muslim societies, the position of Islam on the kind treatment of women is very clear as mentioned in the Noble Qur’an and exemplified through the life and character of Nabi Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).
Allah says in the Noble Qur’an:
إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ
“The nobler among you in the sight of Allah is the more righteous among you.” (49:13)
Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) stated: Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “The most perfect of believers in belief is the best of them in character. The best of you are those who are the best to their women.” (Tirmidhi)
In can be understood from these narrations that a husband’s treatment of his wife reflects a Muslim’s good character, which in turn is a reflection of his faith. The character of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) exemplified how one should be good to his wife. He should smile at her, not hurt her emotionally or physically, remove anything that will harm her, treat her gently and be patient with her. He should communicate effectively with her, involve her in decision making and support her in times of difficultly.
Allah instructs men to be kind to their wives and to treat them well to the best of their ability. A devout Muslim should always remember that bring joy to one’s spouse is part of faith and earns the pleasure of Allah, whilst dealing with her unjustly will earn the anger of Allah.
Allah says in the Noble Qur’an:
وَ عَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ فَإِن كَرِهْتُمُوهُنَّ فَعَسَى أَن تَكْرَهُواْ شَيْئًا وَ يَجْعَلَ اللّهُ فِيهِ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا
“Live with them in kindness; even if you dislike them, perhaps you dislike something in which Allah has placed much good.” (4:19)
Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) reported that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “A believing man should not hate a believing woman. If he dislikes something in her character, he should be pleased with some other or another trait of hers.” (Muslim)
For any relationship to prosper, each party should focus on the positive character traits of the other. Being over-concerned with negative character traits and weakness engenders hatred, discord and even violence at times. A positive attitude is essential. For example, a husband may appreciate the way his wife arranges his clean laundry, but the underlying character trait may be that she is thoughtful.
Following this advice should help the husband focus and be more aware of his wife’s good attributes rather than the negatives. A companion once asked Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), “What is the right of a wife over her husband?” He said, “That you feed her when you eat and clothe her when you clothe yourself and do not strike her face. Do not malign her and do not keep apart from her, except in the house.” (Abu Dawood)
Conflict in marriage is unavoidable at times and, unless one is conscious of the Allah, it can lead to a lot of anger. Although anger is one of the most difficult emotions to manage, the first step towards controlling it can be learning how to forgive those who hurt us. Under no circumstance, even when he is angry or somehow feels justified, is a husband allowed to humiliate her by using hurtful words or cause her any injury.
Children are the weak and vulnerable segment of society. They are in need of not only physical nurturing, but emotional as well as spiritual nourishment. The advice of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is clear in providing guidelines regarding to the kindness and affection they deserve to be shown.
Hereunder are a few examples:
Abu Shurayh Khuwaylid ibn ‘Amr al-Khuza‘i (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “O Allah! I consider it a wrong action that the rights of two weak ones be violated: orphans and women.” (Nasa‘i)
The grandfather of ‘Amr ibn Shu‘ayb (radhiyallahu anhu) said: Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “‘Anyone who does not show mercy to our young people nor honour our old people is not one of us.” (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi)
Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) said, “Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) kissed al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (radhiyallahu anhu). Al-Aqra’ ibn Habis (radhiyallahu anhu) said, “I have ten children and I have not kissed any of them.” Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Someone who does not show mercy will not be shown mercy.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “He who works hard (to fulfil the needs) of widows and the indigent is like a warrior in the Path of Allah.” The narrator thought that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) also said, “and he is like the person who stands in prayer without tiring, and like one fasts and does not break his fast.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Anas (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “One who brings two girls from their childhood until their maturity will appear on the Day of Resurrection in close proximity to me like the two fingers of a hand,” and Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) joined his two fingers.” (Muslim)
Abu Darda (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that he heard Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) saying, “Look for my pleasure among the weak ones, for you are assisted (against your enemies) and provided for with sustenance on account of the weak ones among you.” (Abu Dawud)
How do I stop violence against women and children?
Decide today NOT to look away, NOT to be a bystander and NOT to be silent.
If you are emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive to your partner and/or to your children, seek urgent help.
Provide support to women and children who you suspect are being abused.
If you witness violence and abuse, report it to the nearest police station as soon as possible.
Try to understand how your own attitudes and actions might perpetuate abuse against women or children.
Learn about the services in your community that provide assistance to women and children who experience violence and abuse.
If a relative, neighbour, friend or colleague is abusive to his wife and children, try to talk to him about it and urge him to seek help.
If a woman has been raped, help her to access health services quickly and to test for HIV.
The statistics on domestic violence in South Africa are alarming. The problem exists in both Muslim and non-Muslim societies. The worship of Allah, which Muslims believe is the sole reason for their existence, is an all-encompassing concept that applies equally to one’s relationship with Allah as well as with His creation.
It really begs a question of the humanity and consciousness for a person to stoop so low to make the target of abuse the young and sometimes weak – those who are the flowers of our society, the joy of the heart and embodiment of affection.
In Islam, a person cannot perfect his/her relationship with Allah, unless they perfect their relationship with others. The kind treatment of others, including one’s spouse, can therefore not be ignored as an obligatory act of worship and a sign of piety. Islam teaches the individual to constantly consider which deeds and behaviours will be pleasing to Allah and to interact with others in way that will be pleasing to Him.
It is through attaining a higher level of Allah-consciousness that Islamic principles can contribute to the elevation of society. As a believer sincerely contemplates on how his deeds will be viewed by Allah, he learns to improve his conduct with others, including his spouse.
Prepared by: Jamiatul Ulama South Africa