‘ Malath ’: Finding shelter against domestic violence

(Photo: Shutterstock)
Her husband had been taken to prison.

Noor, with her three-month-old daughter, fled to the home of her in-laws. But instead of protection, she was greeted with beatings and thrown out of the house to fend for herself. اضافة اعلان

She had no other recourse.

“I turned to my brothers for help, but they were unable to provide for me or my daughter financially,” Noor, who preferred to use a pseudonym for safety purposes, told Jordan News.

So she headed to the only place where she could find shelter: back to the home of her in-laws. “I returned to my husband’s house, where I was once again beaten and kicked out,” she said.

Noor then made the decision to seek help from Jordan’s Family Protection Services. She was advised to go to Malath, a temporary shelter for abuse victims run by SOS Children’s Villages, for lodging, security, and medical care.

“I was fortunate in that, after experiencing a difficult and stressful time in my life, I felt at home, despite my initial fear of having no idea where I was going,” she said.

“They were welcoming and incredibly supportive, and they provided the care that my daughter and I needed.”

A worldwide epidemic
Violence against women is a worldwide epidemic and a violation of individual human rights.  Globally, 81,000 women and girls were killed in 2020 according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and around 47,000 of these deaths (58 percent) were at the hands of a partner or a family member — the equivalent of a woman or girl being killed at home every 11 minutes.
33% increase in violence against women in Jordan during the COVID quarantine in 2020
Meanwhile, in the Kingdom, one out of every four married women (25.9 percent) experience physical, sexual, or emotional violence in Jordan according to the 2017–2018 Population and Family Health Survey from the Department of Statistics. In the survey, only 19 percent of married women who were physically or sexually abused by their husbands sought help, and only three percent filed complaints.

And the threat of violence in the home is on the rise.

Violence against women increased by 33 percent in Jordan during the COVID pandemic quarantine in 2020, said Dr Abla Amawi, secretary-general of the Higher Population Council.

With a significant rise in crimes and violence, the pandemic has revealed where care and protection services require increased attention, Amawi said.

According to Women Against Abuse, a US-based organization that provides protection and legal services for victims of abuse, women who experience domestic violence find it challenging to leave their partners for a variety of reasons, including fear of a violent retaliation from a partner when he discovers their attempt to flee, social stigmas, fear of abandoning children or having them taken away, and, last but not least, the reality that they have nowhere else to go and lack the funds to leave or support themselves away from the abusive household.

Shelter for survivors
Shelters are a crucial part of a thorough and well-coordinated response to domestic violence, widely acknowledged as a practical solution for women fleeing violence. This is because shelters give survivors the chance to separate themselves from abusive relationships and think through their options for a life free of violence.

Shelters aim to provide a temporary, emergency residential solution for women fleeing violence. They respond to their immediate needs and those of their children for protection from imminent — and on occasions, life threatening — danger.
47,000 women and girls killed worldwide by a partner or a family member in 2020
Jordan’s Family Protection Law No. 6 (2008, amended in 2017) calls for the provision of medical services and shelter with the consent of a survivor and in coordination with the Ministry of Social Development (Article 6b).

Jordan’s Legislative Assembly adopted the Family Shelter Regulation (Statutory Instrument No. 48 of 2004), which outlines a system of shelters for survivors of domestic violence, and places the Ministry of Social Development in charge of their regulation. The ministry established Dar Al-Wifaq (Family Reconciliation House) in Amman in 2007 to provide shelter for domestic violence survivors. Dar Al-Wifaq also operates a shelter in the northern province of Irbid, and there is a plan to establish one in the southern region.

While the Kingdom’s public infrastructure covers some of the needs of domestic-violence victims, the number of private shelters for women in Jordan represents a challenge. At one point, the Jordanian Women’s Union guest house, established in 1999, serviced the only non-governmental shelter for women in Jordan.

The Women’s Union shelter is a temporary residence for women (and their children) who have been subjected to violence of all forms: physical, sexual, material, economic, and psychological. It also provides shelter for women who feel threatened or believe that living in their homes poses a risk to them and their children.

‘A sense of family’
However, recently, steps have been made to meet this global need in the private sector. SOS Children’s Villages’ Amman and Irbid branches have both established temporary shelters for abused women under the name of “Malath”, which means an “escape”.

Fleeing her husband’s family, Noor was just one of many beneficiaries who was able to escape violence and receive protection and care at a Malath shelter.

The services offered include housing and care for victims of gender-based violence and their children in safe houses, access to case-management services, counseling, and legal support. The Malath shelters also support women’s economic empowerment through training on income-generating projects, and assisting women to establish projects of their own. Services are provided continuously until victims’ cases are resolved in coordination with official agencies.

In an interview with Jordan News, Rana Al-Zoubi, who serves as Jordan country director at SOS Children’s Villages (SOS), said that the project was conceived after the pandemic witnessed high rates  of domestic violence. SOS has been collaborating closely with the Ministry of Social Development and Family Protection Services to try and improve this critical situation.

Fundamentally, SOS prioritizes children, so Malath provides the only model in Jordan that allows a woman to freely leave an abusive home with her children.

“We welcome the abused mother and her children into our homes and foster a sense of family, so that the mother can move forward in her life with her kids and get away from her abuser,” Zoubi said.

Read more Features
Jordan News