Some men believe they have right to beat women — UNDP official

From left, UNDP assistant resident representative Sharifa Ali-Abdullah, Madinah House patron Zalayhar Hassanali, Madinah House president Lydia Choate and Sabeerah Khan display the new magazine at yesterday’s launch. * Photo: KRISTIAN DE SILVA

TRINIDAD GUARDIAN -SNO) — Unit­ed Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) as­sis­tant res­i­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shar­i­fa Ali-Ab­dul­lah says cul­tur­al be­liefs con­tribute to the sex­u­al abuse and bat­ter­ing of women and chil­dren in T&T.

Speak­ing yes­ter­day at the launch of a mag­a­zine pro­mot­ing the Mad­i­nah House, a safe house for bat­tered women and chil­dren, Ali-Ab­dul­lah said con­fu­sion over re­li­gious be­liefs has trig­gered vi­o­lence in homes, with some men be­liev­ing they have a moral right to beat their spous­es.

“While the Unit­ed Na­tions has de­clared vi­o­lence against women a pan­dem­ic in 1993, to­day, more than 26 years lat­er, one in three women still ex­pe­ri­ence phys­i­cal and sex­u­al vi­o­lence,” Ali-Ab­dul­lah said.

She not­ed that a 2017 T&T Women’s Health sur­vey re­vealed one in every three women has suf­fered from vi­o­lence at the hands of a part­ner.

“This means that of our 1.4 mil­lion men women and chil­dren, ap­prox­i­mate­ly 130,000 women in T&T have ex­pe­ri­enced some form of vi­o­lence,” she added.

Ali-Ab­dul­lah said Mus­lim women are not spared from the abuse.

“Our cul­tur­al be­liefs fu­el this vi­o­lent at­ti­tude to­wards women and chil­dren. Our no­tions about man­hood and wom­an­hood, love and fam­i­ly are shaped and re­in­forced by mes­sages from re­li­gion and the me­dia and have had a sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence on what peo­ple be­lieve about the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween men and women,” she said.

She added, “It is clear that Al­lah or­dained that men and women are equal, that they com­ple­ment each oth­er, but equal­i­ty does not mean same­ness. The Mus­lim woman can choose to par­tic­i­pate and re­spond ap­pro­pri­ate­ly to the needs of her fam­i­ly, com­mu­ni­ty and coun­try.”

Say­ing there was a war against fam­i­ly and mar­riage, Ali-Ab­dul­lah said the me­dia al­so con­tributes to­wards vi­o­lence as some gen­res of mu­sic den­i­grate and dis­re­spect women and pro­mote the cul­ture of vi­o­lence.

“I want to state my to­tal dis­gust for the man­ner in which some peo­ple use so­cial me­dia to at­tack mar­riage and fam­i­ly and pro­mote dis­re­spect for these in­sti­tu­tions, which nib­bles away and even­tu­al­ly leads to the weak­en­ing of these fun­da­men­tal struc­tures for a peace­ful ex­is­tence,” she said.

She al­so added that the UNDP will be con­tin­u­ing re­search in­to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence as well as ex­e­cut­ing ini­tia­tives such as the Peace­ful Fam­i­lies project.

Mad­i­nah House pres­i­dent Ly­dia Choate al­so said they were fac­ing fi­nan­cial chal­lenges be­cause of the non-pay­ment of the gov­ern­ment sub­ven­tion. She urged mem­bers to con­tin­ue to sup­port the es­tab­lish­ment. Since it was opened in 1999, Mad­i­nah House has res­cued over 1,200 women from do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and sex­u­al abuse.

The mag­a­zine fea­tures sev­er­al ar­ti­cles out­lin­ing the im­por­tance of the shel­ter, the psy­cho-so­cial ef­fects of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, drug abuse and vi­o­lence, as well as leg­is­la­tion re­lat­ed to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Al­so at­tend­ing the func­tion were pa­tron and for­mer First La­dy Za­lay­har Has­sanali, for­mer politi­cian Nafeesa Mo­hammed and Mad­i­nah House PRO Far­i­al Ali.