Seems like Emiratis have been working so hard over the past decade to make sure one main message gets across to the International Community: we are modern, we have money, come build in our desert. Not enough water for you? We will import it in. Too hot for your liking? We will fly in snow (no joke) from the Swiss Alps.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the word “excess” have always gone hand in hand. But with the recent crash of Dubai, drowning in its debt, countless unfinished real estate ventures, and a slew of bad press on migrant worker abuse, the Emirati states have gone into damage control overdrive to fix their broken image abroad.
So what made them think it would be a good idea to have their highest court legalize domestic violence?
UAE’s highest judicial body this month ruled that “a man can beat his wife and young children as long as the beating leaves no physical marks,”the Huffington Post reports. The decision was made after a case in which a man left cuts and bruises on his wife and daughter after beating them up. The court stated that Islamic codes allow for “discipline if no marks are left.”
Somebody needs to let the Emirs of the Emirates know that it is not okay to beat women and children, and it is especially not okay to make the act legal. Somebody also needs to let the Emirs know that the progress of a society is heavily tied to the progress of its women. The level of security in a society can be measured by how safe women are.
A few years ago a study released by the United Nation on Arab Human Development, stipulated that the one of the reasons the Middle East region lags behind so many others is because it systematically discriminates against 50% of its population- women.
So why would the UAE make such a ruling during a time when it really could use some good press, and during a time when it appeared as though the Emirates, more than many other places in the region, was genuinely trying to move towards allowing women more freedom and representation?
While many other Muslim countries, like Bangladesh, are moving towards more democratic societies that value women’s rights and want them to be equal contributors to their countries, the UAE seems to be stepping closer to the Stone Age.
One thing is clear, you can make all the gold palaces and snow worlds that you want, but nothing lets the world and the international community know what you are really about, and what you really value if you deny half your population their rights, and make it legal for women and their children to be physically beaten by their husbands.
Domestic violence should never be tolerated under any circumstances,” says Nadya Khalife, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These provisions are blatantly demeaning to women and pose serious risks to their well-being.”
Welcome to the United Arab Emirates, where it is okay to beat your wife and kids. Just be sure not to leave any marks.
*This post of mine was also published on Ms. Magazine.