Domestic Violence against Women in Saudi Arabia

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Viewing women in relationships worldwide, approximately one in three women, or 35 percent, have encountered sexual and/or physical partner brutality (World Health Organization, et al., 2013). In the case of Saudi Arabia, domestic violence towards women has increased over the years.

In a case study focusing on domestic violence, 758 Saudi women were questioned and resulted in 32 percent were physically abused and 68 percent were not abused (Prevalence and Risk Factors for Abuse amongst Saudi Females, KSA, et al., 2017). However, multiple factors are taken into account when recording this data, for example, both gender's education, employment status, age, marital status, narcotic intake, and so on. Domestic violence against women stems from religious and cultural teachings and is further enhanced by socio-cultural, economic, and political factors.

The position of women that are in Saudi Arabia has changed immensely throughout the years. However, these women still suffer from numerous obstacles in various areas of their country. The Ministry of Education has gathered that 51.8 percent of Saudi women make up the population in universities. These women are opened to study a wide range of topics that include natural sciences, medicine, art, social sciences, and much more.

The number of women graduates have increased and surpassed the male population. Saudi women also have been able to work at the universities as professors, assistants, and instructors (More Women than Men in Saudi Universities, Says Ministry, Al Arabiya English, 2015). The women in Saudi Arabia till this day need to have a wali or a male legal guardian (Six Things Women in Saudi Arabia Still Can't Do, The Week, 2018). If spotted in public alone, women are often abused or violated. However, according to Saudi officials, they do not condone said violence and will prosecute the abuser.

In some circumstances, women are not allowed to travel, visit the doctors, sign contracts, get married or separated, and/or apply for a passport without the authorization of their male guardian (Saudi Arabia Uncovered, PBS, 2016). Women also need to be fully dressed in their black abaya. This is said to protect their modesty while being in public (Jamie Tarabay, CNN, 2017). Since June of 2018, Saudi women have been able to apply for their driver's license and drive without being punished. Saudi Arabia's religion is Islamic.

In this country, a person can be punished by death for not following Islamic traditions or trying to convert from this religion. Their government is a theocratic monarchy and uses the Holy Qur'an as their constitution (Kenneth Kimutai, World Atlas, 2018). Since most of Saudi Arabia adheres to the Qur'an, amongst the many chapters and verses said in this religious text, a few mentions how women should be treated. This results in the normality of violence against women caused by the male species.

In September of 2011, women were permitted the privilege to vote in the general Saudi elections. It was a diminutive step for change, however, it was a start for a new era for Saudi women's rights (Saudi Arabia Uncovered, PBS, 2016). In the employment market, the number of women employers have increased over the past few years. Starting 2017, over 500,000 women in Saudi Arabia joined the market of labor (A Changing Future: The Economic Role of Women in Saudi Arabia, Abdul Latif Jameel, 2018). More than 30 percent of Saudi Arabia's workforce is made up of Saudi women.

The Ministry of Labor shows that the statistics of women employed in the retail field have increased and that Saudi Arabia will hire women to work in the department stores instead of men (Opening Doors: Gender Equality and Development in the Middle East and North Africa, The World Bank, 2013).

Intimate violence within a relationship can originate from lack of education, drug abuse, and/or one's employment status. In Saudi Arabia, the power that is held by the male population is prominent, thus leading to violence against women being socially acceptable. Some of the restrictions on women have been attempted to put an end to.

In regard to dissolving the domestic violence in Saudi Arabia, one case being the ban of women having to have male guardians to look after them and dictate their decision making (For Some Saudi Women Facing Strict Male Authority and Even Abuse, There's Only One Answer: Run, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, 2017).

The guardianship of a male figure ruling over women is the principal reason as to why Saudi women are abused daily. This ownership gives men an excuse to violate and abuse women at any time because of their religious beliefs and upbringings. The Committee to end violence against women are trying to promote women's rights in a social and economic way that is solely based on the empowerment of the women population.

The system in Saudi Arabia that revolves around the dominance of male is the primary barrier Saudi women are facing that do not allow them to participate in the society as equals (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women examines Saudi Arabia's report, United Nations Human Rights, 2018). However, over thousands of Saudi women have been fighting against having a male guardian by signing a petition that has been circulating online. These women were promoting this petition all over the well-known social media site called Twitter (Thousands of Saudis Sign Petition to End Male Guardianship of Women, Mazin Sidahmed, 2016). The Transnational Feminist Network (TFN) aims for the support of women's basic human rights.

This includes ending all violence against women of all ages, classes, cultures, and ethnicities. Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is part of this organization that emphasizes on the laws and implementation that is based on religion that negatively affect women and use a human rights framework and international agreements on the rights of women to make their case (Women Across Cultures, Shawn Meghan Burn, 2011). WLUML manages in over seventy countries and has its concentration fully on women's rights.

In the United States of America, approximately each year, women in relationships undergo 4.8 million intimate partner related physical assaults and rapes (Women Across Cultures, Shawn Meghan Burn, 2011). Women in abusive relationships do not have any alternatives because society has forced them to be unequal to man which then gives men power that they cannot handle. Under the umbrella of domestic violence, 17.7 million, or one in six, women in America experienced almost or completely sexual assault (Women Across Cultures, Shawn Meghan Burn, 2011).

In the United States military, nearly 30 percent of women soldiers are sexually abused. In 2015, roughly around 100,000 instances of intimate partner violence were reported to Florida's law enforcement (What is Domestic Violence, Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015). Focusing on college campuses in the United States, for every one thousand students, six will get assaulted sexually (The Truth About Domestic Violence on College Campuses, Anna Libertin, 2017).

According to Anna Libertin, 21 percent of college students report having experienced dating violence by a current partner. This can be a result from highly stressed induced school work, peer pressure, alcohol or drugs being used, and so on. In the year 1994, the United States Congress authorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which makes violence within a relationship is a civil crime and can help victims of domestic violence prosecute their abusers or have their abusers prosecuted. It is considered a federal crime if the abusive partner crosses over state lines to harass, stalk, or abuse their partner if this person is within the United States (Federal Domestic Violence Laws, United States Attorney's Office, 2017).

To promote how gender inequalities and violence against women are still highly recognizable in the community, targeting the education system would be one way to publicize this subject and cause awareness. Different levels of schooling should inform students and instructors on what inequality really means and how can it be stopped. Globally, it would be somewhat difficult to reach everyone, however, in today's modern age, social media has had the power to connect with people from all over the country and not limiting to different countries who have access to social media. The start of a website can be one way to start making gender inequality and domestic violence known to the public. Providing various information on the definition of both these problems can help others understand what it means and if they are victims to this.

Resources like domestic violence hotlines and campaigns fighting against gender inequalities can also be published to let the audience know that they can either reach out for help and/or be involved in the movement. Another form of social awareness is creating a page on a social media site like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. This will allow first hand communication with people who are able to view the most recent information you are providing. This is a great way to interact with one another and create conversations with others who have an opinion on this topic.

Violence against women has been a well-known problem in the regions of Saudi Arabia. In this present day, most cities in Saudi Arabia are still segregated between the male and female gender. Due to ideologies stemming from cultural and/or religious backgrounds, domestic violence against women continues to be a prominent issue of contention. However, Saudi Arabi's government and different organizations fighting against this issue are trying to attempt it to combat these issues.

A Changing Future: the Economic Role of Women in Saudi Arabia, Abdul Latif Jameel?®. ALJ, Abdul Latif Jameel, 31 Jan. 2018,

Bank, The World. Opening Doors: Gender Equality and Development in the Middle East and North Africa. Washington DC, 2013.
Burn, Shawn Meghan. Women across Cultures: a Global Perspective. McGraw-Hill Education, 2011.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Examines Saudi Arabia's Report. OHCHR | Freedom of Religion: UN Expert Hails Albaniea, but Notes New Challenges and Unresolved Issues from the Past, OHCHR, 2018,

Federal Domestic Violence Laws. The United States Department of Justice, 6 Dec. 2017,

Halawi Azhar Ahmed A., et al. Prevalence and Risk Factors for Abuse among Saudi Females, KSA. Egyptian Journal of Hospital Medicine, vol. 68, no. 1, July 2017, pp. 1082“1087. EBSCOhost, doi:10.12816/0038213.

Hennessy-Fiske, Molly. For Some Saudi Women Facing Strict Male Authority and Even Abuse, There's Only One Answer: Run. Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 30 July 2017,

Kimutai, Kenneth. Religion in Saudi Arabia. World Atlas, Worldatlas, 29 Nov. 2016,

Libertin, Anna. The Truth About Domestic Violence on College Campuses. HAWC, HAWC, 30 Nov. 2017,

More Women than Men in Saudi Universities, Says Ministry. Al Arabiya English, Saudi Gazette, 28 May 2015,

Saudi Arabia Uncovered. Films Media Group, PBS, 2016,

Sidahmed, Mazin. Thousands of Saudis Sign Petition to End Male Guardianship of Women. The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 Sept. 2016,

Six Things Women in Saudi Arabia Still Can't Do. The Week UK, The Week UK, 5 June 2018,

Tarabay, Jamie. Women in Saudi Arabia Still Can't Do These Things. CNN, Cable News Network, 6 Dec. 2017,

Violence against Women. World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 29 Nov. 2017,

What Is Domestic Violence? OHCHR | Freedom of Religion: UN Expert Hails Albania but Notes New Challenges and Unresolved Issues from the Past, 2016,

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Domestic Violence Against Women in Saudi Arabia. (2019, Apr 16). Retrieved October 1, 2023 , from

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