Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

29 August 2012

Tanzania: Zanzibar Men Still Beat Their Wives, Says Report

DESPITE ongoing efforts to minimize domestic violence, promote gender equality and empower women, new study in Zanzibar indicates that many women are still beaten and bullied by men including Muslim clerics!

In its report, the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) - Zanzibar revealed that although men beat women, but the number of cases being reported to the police remain few, mainly because most women opt to tolerate violence in order to keep her family together. "Women have testified to have been bullied and beaten by men, but they think it is improper to report the case.

Some get hurt severely in the domestic violence, but treat themselves silently to save the husband or partner," the report says. The report says that women beating in Zanzibar are linked to love jealousy, disputes over wealth and family care, alcohol, neglect in marriage, and men superiority in the family. The report further says that most of the women asked during the survey held in ten districts of Zanzibar, agreed that beating and bullying is common but done under secrecy.

However, with the help from gender activists like the Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association (ZAFELA) and TAMWA through its programme of WEZA, many women in both urban and rural have been transforming gradually and can now at least argue with men and defend their rights. "In fact, the awareness about women rights, by TAMWA has helped me and other women. We can now dare to ask men when there is misunderstanding in the family.

We try to educate our husbands to respect our rights," Ms Khadija Hassan, 41, from Bumbwini village, North Unguja says. She said that most males are short-tempered and therefore disputes in families end in intimidation and beating. "It sometimes ends in divorce and split in family," she said. What if my wife is stubborn and intimidates me to either beat her or divorce her when she is angry?

The study has revealed that some husbands/men in Zanzibar, Muslim dominated islands, are violent and say that Islam through the holy book of Quran and Prophet Muhammad allows them to beat disobedient women. But does Islam allow wife beating? Is there any logical explanation given regarding men being allowed to beat their wives, as 'stated' in the Holy Book (Surat An-Nisaa, verse 34)?

TAMWA's study shows that although there is a consensus among Human Rights activities, and religious leaders including Muslims that beating women is not good and unacceptable in the mature and civilized society, but some Muslims clerics maintain that beating without harm is appropriate way of reforming a woman who 'misbehaves.'

Some Zanzibari Islamic scholars like Sheikh Fadhil Soraga from the Mufti Office, and Dr Issa Ziddy - lecturer at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA) says beating of women is not allowed in Islam and that a man should avoid bullying and beating his wife. A Researcher, Silas Maranatha, in his publication 'WIFE BEATING IN ISLAM', points out that Wife/Women beating is one of the more controversial issues in Islam with the Quran's authorization for husbands to beat disobedient wives.

Many people have criticized Islam because of this harsh sanction and many Muslims have written articles seeking to defend it. He says that Prophet Muhammad's viewpoint of women was that they "lack self-control" and thus for their own good, and societies' good, they must be subordinate to and managed by their husbands. Wives must obey. In an Islamic marriage when a man gives his bride a dowry he is accredited the right to manage his wife. By accepting his dowry a woman is giving her husband the right to her regulation.

Silas says that Muhammad urged his followers (Muslims) to treat their wives well and the Quran's chapter 4 is full of these sincere admonitions. He did not want to see them beaten without cause and he wanted good marriage relationships. "However, Muhammad's desires for happy marriages and kind treatment do not mitigate the authority he gave men over women or the position he ascribed to women.

Wives are to be treated gently and kindly but are still under the man's authority. If she persists in disobedience to his wishes he has the right, and the responsibility, to 'beat' her to bring her into submission once again, and re-establish a happy marriage." Silas wrote. Dr Muzammil Siddiqi, Islamic scholar in the US, and former President of the Islamic Society of North America argues that the verse mentioned in the Quran has been greatly misconceived by many people who focus merely on its surface meaning, taking it to allow wife beating.

Siddiqi says, "according to Quran (Ar-Rum 21) the relationship between the husband and wife should be based on mutual love and kindness. Allah says: "And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect." He says that the Holy Quran urges husbands to treat their wives with kindness. (In the event of a family dispute, Quran exhorts the husband to treat his wife kindly and not to overlook her positive aspects).

The scholar says that it is important that a wife recognizes the authority of her husband in the house. He is the head of the household, and she is supposed to listen to him. But the husband should also use his authority with respect and kindness towards his wife.

He says that if there arises any disagreement or dispute among them, then it should be resolved in a peaceful manner and spouses should seek the counsel of their elders and other respectable family members and friends to batch up the rift and solve the differences. However, the scholar says that in some cases a husband may use some light disciplinary action in order to correct the moral infraction of his wife, "but this is only applicable in extreme cases and it should be resorted to if one is sure it would improve the situation.

However, if there is a fear that it might worsen the relationship or may wreak havoc on him or the family, then he should avoid it completely." Other Muslim scholars, says that according to the Quran and the Sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him), wife beating in Islam is definitely prohibited, possibly even in the case where the wife fails after she was warned twice for her ill-conduct and disloyalty.

They argue that wife beating at anytime and for any reason is never allowed in Islam, and that there is however a questionable condition in Quran where Allah Almighty seems to allow the husband to beat his wife, and that is after he gives her two warnings to stop showing ill-conduct and disloyalty. In most African countries women normally make up their mind to respect their husbands even if they are abused or beaten up.

A World Health Organization (WHO) study has found that while more than a third of Namibian women reported enduring physical or sexual abuse by a male partner, often resulting in injury; six in seven victims had either kept it to themselves or confided only in a friend or relative! In South Africa, researchers for the Medical Research Council estimated that a male partner kills a girlfriend or spouse every six hours - the highest mortality rate from domestic violence ever reported, they say.

In Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, domestic violence accounts for more than 6 in 10 murder cases in court, a United Nations report concluded last year. Some societies have the idea that women are foolish and childlike, and need to be beaten to be corrected. In one survey, 44.7 per cent of Kenyan women said that men have the right to discipline their wives by beating. The women who are beaten often feel that it is their fault.

TAMWA's survey of 2012 concludes that the only way for women to get out of men's beating is by increased awareness to men and women about human rights and effects of beating, promote tolerance in marriage, proper upbringing of children, and enforcement of by-laws in communities. The study found out that in some wards (Shehias) like Puani-Mchangani members of the community have been implementing a by-law prohibiting beating of women, and any man who violates is isolated including being involved in community issues, and his name is made public!

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