Violence against women scars lives, still widely prevalent

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AMMAN — Violence against women and girls, sadly one of the most common violations of human rights, is, according to UN Women, any act of “gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering”. اضافة اعلان

A gender-based violence (GBV) report written by the International Organization for Migration found that the most at-risk of GBV demographic group in Amman is that of women and girls, in the case of the former, specifically those who are widowed, separated or divorced.

The most common forms of violence against women are emotional, psychological and physical abuse, and denial of access to resources and opportunities. 

This is the type of harm that Iraqi-born Suha, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, has been facing. At 15, she was forced to leave school by her parents who had decided that “education is not necessary for a girl”, she told Jordan News. She worked for a year to help the family. When she was 19, she married a widowed Jordanian in her native Iraq. 

“It is not that I was not comfortable with him, but it was not the life that I had imagined for myself at all,” she said. 

“When a girl is still young, sometimes she does not have the courage to speak up, especially when there is no one around her to support her.”

According to Gender Justice Program Manager at Oxfam in Jordan Bisika Thapa, “early marriage is associated with vulnerability factors such as poverty, lack of education and refugee status. Early marriage stunts a girl’s development as it exposes her to increased risk of sexual, physical and psychological violence that can have a lasting impact on her sense of self, such as her self-esteem, life-skills, decision making.” 

Suha’s husband was an alcoholic who would constantly verbally abuse her and also shove her, so she eventually decided to leave him.

“I carefully considered my decision. I did not just do it on a whim. I thought hard about this and I gave myself ample time, not to regret any decision that I would make.”

The divorce took a long time; her hearings would constantly get postponed and, at the time, she also believed her lawyer was against her, as he would deliberately mislead her about hearings so she would not attend.

She was finally granted a divorce, and afterward, Suha and her family immigrated to Jordan, where now, a divorcee, she faced a new set of problems. Her family would make a point to make Suha’s divorcee status known, a form of punishment she believes was meant to embarrass her.

By 2012, she married again, this time an Arab national in Jordan. Her second marriage proved to be more turbulent than the first. During that period, Suha fell ill and found herself needing surgery. The surgery had to be entirely self-funded after her request for help was denied by the UNHCR. Her husband did not stand by her, and Suha even believes that he did not want her to have the surgery at all; instead, he wanted to use the money to start a business, with total disregard for her health. 

“I told him my surgery was important to me and he started to hit me for talking back to him.” 

He also attempted to force her to beg for money, but she refused. 
Her second husband did not expect her to divorce him, because “there is a tacit notion in our society that if a man marries a divorced woman, it is almost impossible for her to leave or divorce him, not wishing to be twice divorced. It is already bad enough the first time.”

Her husband would take any money she earned from her work and spend it on himself. She had become the breadwinner in the family.

She filed for divorce at the Iraqi embassy and returned to her parent’s house, where a different round of abuse ensued. 

“I was not greeted with open arms by my family. They treated me in an awful way,” she recounts.

Food was hidden from her, she was left out of family gatherings, and she would have to endure verbal abuse from her mother and siblings.
“They told me that as long as I was in their house, I will have to tolerate the way they treated me. My mother played a big role in this. I think most of my illnesses are because of my family.”

At one point, Suha attempted to sit again for the tawjihi (general secondary education certificate examination), but was constantly belittled and bullied by her mother before each exam. 

There were times, in the middle of winter, when her younger sister would open the window and leave the room, and Suha was not allowed to close it.
“There are things I just do not have the courage to mention because I would feel so much shame.”

Much of her mental stress began to manifest itself in physical forms. Her anxiety caused her to have blackouts, or sometimes freeze in place, unable to move her hands or legs. 

In 2016, she again left her family home. 

“Leaving the house took a lot of thinking on my part, was not taken overnight. And — thank god — now I live on my own, I have a house of my own.”
But being twice divorced and living on her own proved to be just as difficult.

She found work as a domestic helper, but the stigma around the job made many of her friends stop speaking to her. She was also approached by older men, even neighbors, who promised to assist her financially in exchange for sexual favors. Even women who were aware of her position attempted to persuade her to accept these men’s offers, which come with the promise of a large monetary reward.

“When I came to Jordan, I saw many things that were wrong, but I could not speak up. Only recently have I had the courage to speak up.”

Suha does not work at present; her illnesses have prevented her from doing so, and she now relies mostly on organizations to help her live from day to day. 

She hopes that one day she can sit for tawjihi and then go to college, even though she hears her mother’s voice telling her that she would never make it. 
“I want every girl and woman to know that she has to make her choices.

Because she is the one who is going to live her life, not anyone else, not her family. And anything that she sees wrong, she must speak up.” 

2021 marks 30 years of the Global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence against women. 

In the first half of 2021, 90 percent of survivors who received GBV services were women and 4.3 percent were girls. Over half of the survivors reported psychological and emotional abuse and roughly a fourth reported physical assault, according to the Jordan GBV IMF report. These numbers show that GBV is still widely prevalent in the country.

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