Stronger deterrents needed to reduce domestic violence in UAE

Tough penalties for abuse should include reports to an offender's workplace or even visa cancellation, suggests Dubai-based lawyer Jouslin Khairalla.

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DUBAI // Marital abuse is “an infection” in every country, said Amna Al Mutawa, a case manager at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children.

"Domestic violence happens and is a common issue," she said. "It is not a community issue; it is worldwide, unfortunately."
The foundation offers counselling, legal advice and other services to women in distress. Anyone seeking help for domestic violence can call the foundation hotline on 800-111.

“We try to empower them to seek more sources for support: financial support, social support and maybe vocational training,” Ms Al Mutawa said.

Programmes to help women find work are crucial, she added.

“In order to make them feel important, they have to work,” she said. “They have to make their hands busy and minds busy.”

Ultimately, stronger deterrents are needed to prevent the problem in the first place, said Jouslin Khairallah, a lawyer in Dubai.

“The date we pass the red signal, we understand very well we will pay a fine and our car will be in the traffic department for a month, so we will do it very carefully,” she said.

Tough penalties for domestic violence could include reports to an offender’s workplace or even visa cancellation, she suggested.

There is also a need for more female officers to handle cases, said Sarah (not her real name), an Abu Dhabi mother who filed an abuse case against her former husband. The procedure was clear and police took it seriously, she said. But the only woman she encountered during the process was her lawyer.

“It’s embarrassing because I think if there was a woman, she would understand more,” she said.

Sarah also suggested a 24-hour domestic-violence hotline dedicated for Abu Dhabi.

“Things generally tend to blow up on a Friday,” she said. “I can’t reach anybody.”

DFWAC focuses on Dubai but does have clients from other emirates, Ms Al Mutawa said.

“They don’t have places to go,” she said.

Sharjah Social Services also runs a shelter and hotline: call 800-800-700.