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Radio al-Balad Investigation: 12,000 cases of domestic violence left unchecked since 1998
AmmanNet: Hadeel al-Bass
2014/02/05

–        Only 5 out of 17,000 cases considered by family reconciliation committees since 2008

–        Law on Protection from Domestic Violence failing to protect the family

–        Laws in contradiction with separation of powers

–        Courts neglecting to use the law

27-year-old Sofia’s husband abuses her in myriad ways: from beating her on the face to kicking, throwing coffee and hot tea at her, cutting her hair forcibly and threatening to kill her, brandishing a knife in her face.

 

A slim-figured, fresh-faced native of Amman, Sofia was married five years ago – and has lived in humiliation and insult ever since. She once thought married life would be filled with bliss and mutual respect. “I spent the flower of my youth on our time close together… only for him to defame my honor with the ugliest words.”

 

“He gives me a dinar and I spend it at home. He spends all his income on drinks. Sometimes there is no bread at home,” said Sofia, who said her husband won’t provide for the family. She does domestic work to feed her two children. When her husband learns of this, he accuses her of prostitution.

 

Sofia first complained to the Department of Family Protection (DFP) in September 2010. She received no opportunity to present her case until her fourth attempt in 2013 – by then, the abuse had been going on for four years. She brought a medical report stating that she’d been beaten by her husband, but was shocked by the DFP employee’s reply: “Your solution is to go to the shari’a court. Get divorced.”

 

Sofia refused to divorce her husband.Instead, she wanted follow-up visits and protection from the violence.

 

The DFP only labeled her husband a perpetrator of violence, asking him to sign a pledge not to further harm against her – but he never showed up. After all Sofia’s communication with the DFP, her husband only beat his wife and children more than ever before.

 

DFP Director of Public Relations Naji Al-Bataineh said that although his administration possesses full law enforcement powers, they did not go after the violent husband because this would exacerbate inner family problems, especially since the crime did not require arrest or detainment.

 

Sofia is one of 12,000 cases that the Ministry of Social Development has left without any follow up since 1998, according to DFP reports in the East Amman administration’s files.

This investigation reveals that the 2008 Law on Protection from Domestic Violence is weak, defective and unimplemented. Successive governments have failed to implement the law and to form the family reconciliation committees to whom the DFP and courts are supposed to pass domestic violence cases. All follow-up actions depend on this process, without which 32,000 cases of domestic violence reviewed by the DFP in the last 4 years will continue without solution or redress.

 

Without a national register of domestic violence cases, it is difficult to quantify the true size of the problem for abused women in Jordan. The Ministry of Social Development’s numbersindicate approximately 4100 cases of domestic abuse in 2013. DFP statistics, in contrast, show approximately 7500 in the same year, whereas the National Committee for omen’s Affairs reports 2100 cases.

 

25-year-old Samira (name changed for protection) was raped by her employer and threatened with death by her brother after she’d given birth to a child from the rape. She turned to the DFP, seeking not to become a victim of “honor crime” accusations. The DFP sent her to a family reconciliation house.

 

After Samira had lived in the house for two years, the director of the house entered her room one morning, asking her to get out of bed, change quickly, leave her son and go to the DFP for case review.

 

The DFP decided to remove Samira from the house as a solution to her problem. But Samira was under a death threat and refused to leave. “How can you ask me to leave? I don’t have any place to go,” she said. The response: “There will be a shelter for you.”

 

No administrators found a shelter for Samira. She returned to where she’d been.

 

But the director of the house refused to receive Samira again. Instead, she was sent to the Center for Reform and Rehabilitation in Juweideh and detained there for five days, until her family signed a government pledge promising no harm to her once she left and returned to her family home.

 

The reconciliation house director Dr. Zain al-Abadi said that Samira’s expulsion from the house was not under her jurisdiction, since the court administration had ordered it. Neither the reconciliation house nor the DFP had a hand in the decision, al-Abadi said.

 

Committee of Family Reconciliation no more than ink on paper

 

The writer of this report met ten women who’d been abused by their husbands over the course of eight months. None of them were helped by the family reconciliation committees, which are supposed to solve conflicts, reconcile and repair family relations, as stipulated by Article 6 of the Law on Protection from domestic Violence.

 

These family reconciliation committees should be formed by the Minister of Social Development’s decision, Article 6 stipulates. There are 5 committees in all of the Hashemite Kingdom, all formed in 2010, two years after the law was implemented, with no further developments since.

 

Each committee comprises a chairman and two members, with most of these committees headed by women working in the political field. The committee leaders are Nawal al-Fouri in Madaba, Mai Abu al-Saman in Balqa, Nadia Bishnaq in Zarqa, Reem Abu Hassan in Amman, and Samira Abu Zeitoun in East Amman.

 

Women’s rights activist and lawyer Akef Maaytah said that the committees lack effectiveness because their leaders are preoccupied with their political and public roles. Heavy daily workloads prevent them from following domestic violence cases closely.

 

Samira Abu Zeitoun, chairperson of the East Amman family reconciliation committee, criticized their lack of work. “Our committee has not met for more than five months,” Abu Zeitoun said. “Neither the DFP nor the courts have sent us any cases for review.”

 

Advisor to the Minister of Social Development Mohammed Kharabsheh said: “The family reconciliation committees were formed in 2010 as an experiment. They proved disruptive to our work with their expense of time, so they were not further applied throughout the other Jordanian provinces.”

 

Reconciliation Committees consider only 5 out of 17,000 cases

 

Since 2010, the reconciliation committees have examined only 5 out of nearly 17,000 cases. One of the five examined divorce cases failed, the Ministry of Social Development told this report’s investigators.

 

Moreover, no ministers of social development have implemented Article 6 of the 2008 Law on Protection from Domestic Violence to create more committees, said the Ministry of Social Development.

 

The DFP refuted this statement, saying that family reconciliation committees have not been implemented because “there is no system to determine whom the members of these committees will be, nor any set time to reform them properly.”

 

Minister of Social Development Reem Abu Hassan responded: “The formation of family reconciliation committees is not a job for our generalexecution. The existing Code of Criminal Procedure allocates family reconciliation responsibilities to the judiciary and the public prosecutor. This is a legal problem, whether in establishing a system or implementing the committees.”

 

12 thousand cases of violence left unaddressed in social service offices

 

Case files on domestic violence reports are accumulated in the social service offices of East Amman and the DFP main office. These indicate that 12,000 cases of domestic abuse have been left in neglect, without follow-up, since 1998.

 

The Ministry of Social Development, which is responsible for these social service offices and the field of family protection, asked the National Family Coalition – consisting of 12 official and civil society organizations – to help review these files and recommend either follow-up or closing of each case.

 

The writer of this investigation asked the National Center for Human Rights, a National Family Coalition member, what happened to these files. Its unit head Buthainah Freihat responded, “The Ministry of Social Development asked us for two employees in 2012, in order to train them in reading these 12,000 domestic violence cases. But work has not yet begun on these files, nor has the Ministry of Social Development followed up on the issue.”

 

Ahmed Al Zabin, director of social defense at the Ministry of Social development, said that the ministry is seeking a suitable way to address this issue. Al Zabin intends to open an office for case examination, he said, adding that he is forming a small team that will examine approximately 350 out of the 12,000 cases.

 

Empty pledges and continuing abuse

 

35-year-old Amani has been married for 12 years. She reported her husband to the DFP for repeated violence, including hitting, cursing and insulting.

 

The DFP called Amani’s husband in after each complaint, making him pledge not to repeat the abuse. Before long, however, he would return to his old ways.

 

Amani is not the only victim stuck in a vortex of repeated abuse. This investigation tracked the cases of 8 women, all of whom had signed pledges of no more continued violencewith their husbands under DFP and government jurisdiction. But these pledges changed nothing. Violence continued in their marriages, without any follow-up from the DFP or social service offices, whether with field visits, provision of social services, or psychosocial support for the women.

 

DFP judicial division president Atallah Al-Massaroh said upon examination of the cases that the defendant must enforce her husband to keep his pledge, or report his breaking the pledge to thecourts.

 

The DFP indicated that almost 4,000 cases had been transferred from their jurisdiction to the courts from 2010 to 2013, at a rate of a thousand cases a year.

 

In a written statement, the DFP also said Article 11 of the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence stipulates that the DFP is responsible for signed pledges and any following legal action if the victim expresses desire to transfer her case to the courts.

 

Unimplemented legal restraints

 

Paragraph (B) of Article 11 in the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence allows the DFP director to prevent a perpetrator of violence from entering his home for 48 hours if no alternative shelter has been found for the victim.

 

The same article states that if the perpetrator is not barred from entering his family home, then he is to be restrained for 24 hours in the DFP or one of its divisions while the victim is given protection.

 

The DFP acknowledged in response to this investigation that paragraph (B) has not been implemented at all. Instead, victims of domestic violence have access to secure shelters far away from their abusers, the Department said.

 

Lawyer and human rights activist Hala Ahed said the real reason Article 11, paragraph (B) has not been applied is because there is no system or methodology for its implementation. Current procedure simply detains abused women in prison, rather than keeping the perpetrators of violence far away.

 

“There are no shelters of the kind this article needs, nor is there social acceptability in the concept of barring a man from his home. So the article has been reversed, and the abused woman is exiled from her house rather than the abuse man,” said Amal Haddadin, legal adviser at the National Commission for Family Affairs.

 

Disingenuous protection orders

 

Article 13 of the Law on Protection from Domestic Abuse provides for the issue of restraining orders that protect the abuse victim by requiring that the abuser not approach her or her place of residence. Moreover, a third party is to manage the transfer of any damaged personal property between the abuser and abused.

 

We asked the Ministry of Justice to provide the number of such orders that had been issued since the Law on Protection from Domestic Abuse was passed in 2008, but received no response.

 

Director of the Mizan Center for Human RightsEva Abu Halawa said, “There have been no protection orders for victims of domestic abuse issued since the law’s adoption. Nor have any regulations to enforce this law been put into place. Most of this law is paralyzed.”

 

Judicial neglect of the law

 

The courts have not examined domestic violence cases in accordance with Article 2 of the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence; instead, they deal with these cases using the Jordanian penal code.

 

Director of the Mizan Center for Human Rights Eva Abu Halawa said, “These trials are not conducted in accordance with the law because the DFP has transferred processing of these cases to the family reconciliation committees… legal action has been frozen amid this transfer process.”

 

An appeals court judge who preferred to remain anonymous said, “Judges do not implement this law. It was adopted, but has remained paralyzed because there are no instructions for its implementation. Frankly, many judges and lawyers have forgotten it even exists.”

 

He added, “The DFP also has not sent domestic violence complaints to the courts. We have not received many cases for processing.”

 

The DFP referred nearly 9300 cases to the judicial system under the Jordanian penal code, not the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence, from 2010 to 2013. All of these cases were put under the central criminal court’s jurisdiction, said DFP head of jurisdiction Atallah Almassaroh.

 

Dr. Momen Hadidi, a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Council for Family Affairs and lecturer at the Judicial Institute, said, “Judicial neglect has left this law inactive. Judges use the penal code instead because it is easier. They do not understand this law well. There is an urgent need for training.”

 

Judiciary powers confiscated by the Department of Family Protection

 

The National Centre for Human Rights criticized the DFP in its 2008 annual report for taking over judiciary powers and halting prosecution of cases without proper oversight. This violates the principle of separation of powers, the Centre said, and interferes with the judiciary’s right to decide when criminal cases are prosecuted or not.

 

Article 12 of the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence states that the DFP director can halt prosecution of the abuser if the victim and perpetrator both agree.

 

The Centre’s report also stated: “This fully overtakes the prosecutor’s legal role, removing his authority and giving it to the DFP director and its members.”

 

Law that does not protect the family

 

UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women Rashida Manjoo criticized the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence in a report to the UN Human Rights Council, saying that it gives priority to “reconciliation” regardless of violence, rather than to individual human rights of the women who has suffered abuse.

 

Minister of Social Development Reem Abu Hassan agreed, saying that the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence does not fully protect the family, women, or children, and added that her ministry is working to amend this law.

 

Dr. Momen Hadidi, one of the Trustees of the National Council for Family Affairs, said that the law has neither been implemented nor achieved its purposes due to its rushed passage into legislation by the Ministry of Development.

 

Sofia, Samira and thousands of other women will continue to suffer as long as the weaknesses of this law, the Ministry of Social Development and all related legal institutions remain unaddressed.

 

*This investigation was prepared by the investigative journalism unit at Radio al-Balad under the supervision of Musab Shawabkeh, with the support of the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ).

 

Translated by Alice Su. For full report, see original in Arabic.[URL]

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