A ruling from the Federal Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirates was announced on Monday, October 18, 2010, where the Court found that it is okay for a man to beat his wife or child in order to discipline them, he just can’t leave any marks. The defendant had beaten his wife and 23 year-old daughter leaving the wife with injuries to her lips and teeth and the daughter suffered bruises to her knees and hands. While the Court’s ruling went against the defendant, Chief Justice Falah as Hajeri said there were instances where domestic violence was acceptable: as long as no physical marks are left behind and children who have reached adulthood (approximately puberty) cannot be struck.
The legal system of the UAE is far more progressive (by western standards) than those of most Middle-Eastern nations. For example, women are allowed to drive cars and alcohol consumption in permitted. This is not to be unexpected in a country where international resident outnumber the local population, due primarily to the UAE’s position as one of the largest produced or oil in the world. However, the UAE is still largely influenced by Islamic law and the Court’s ruling is consistent with Sharia law. Given it’s international status, should the UAE by expected to meet the societal and legal norms of the west? Doesn’t it have a right as a sovereign nation to conduct its affairs as it seems fit?
While this ruling is not ideal right now, the court DID punish the defendant for beating his wife too severely and said his child was too old to be disciplined in such matter. Islam experts have all commented that abusing, injuring, or insulting the dignity of your wife is unlawful under Islamic law. And technically, I see the portion relating to his child as similar to some parents in the US choosing to spank their children. As far as I know, that is still legal and it is a form of beating that does not leave marks. So why should we be criticizing the UAE when the US has essentially the same rules?
The court did not say that a man can outright, right away beat his wife and children. He has to follow the law and try other forms of nonviolent discipline first, then he is allowed to use minimal force, such as a slap. And it is also not saying that a man can beat them so severely that they can’t move after, they said clearly that is illegal. I feel like I should have been more pro-women in this comment…but it is a big step toward women’s rights and children’s rights in the UAE. And the defendant WAS found guilty of beating his family.
Fundamentally, the so-called “discipline” of a spouse or child can never be tolerated. The Supreme Court’s decision, the judgment of Chief Justice Falah as Hajeri, and the court’s rational are inherently flawed. First, the “discipline” cannot be justified by the fact that no “marks” are left. The visible results of domestic violence are minimal in comparison to the psychological “marks” of a physically abusive relationship. Second, do the marks have to be left were they can be plainly seen? If so, how are the marks to be seen? The vast majority of Muslim women wear clothing that exposes only the hands and eyes. Finally, the “discipline” cannot be justified on religious grounds. Yes, a verse in the Quaran instructs Muslim husbands with disobedient wives to admonish them, then to refuse to sleep with them, and finally to beat them. However, the Quran also speaks of Allah having ordained “love and mercy” between man and wife. “Love and mercy” does not equate with “discipline” that does not leave marks
In my opinion, the UAE cannot have things both ways. It cannot strive to maintain lucrative business relationships with Western yet demean and undermine the status of their women and children. Placing women and children in a position of inferiority has broad ranging psychological impacts and is contrary to the beliefs held by the countries of the West. Rather than acquiesce to the ruing that a man can beat his wife or child without leaving marks and continue forward as usual, Western countries and businesses should support the work of advocacy groups attempting to support the rights of women. To do otherwise condones abuse and allows the cycle to continue.