Afra Al Basti, Executive Director of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC)
Increased community acceptance in the UAE that domestic violence is intolerable is gauged by the rise in the reporting of such cases, according to Afra Al Basti, Executive Director of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC), the first-licensed shelter in the UAE and a home for victims of domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking.
She added: “An increase in number of people seeking help reflects victim’s willingness to break their silence, unlike the past. Earlier, people were hesitant to report what was considered an internal family matter.”
Al Basti’s comments came ahead of a seminar on ‘Domestic Violence in the UAE’ at the Dubai School of Government (DSG), a research and teaching institution that focuses on public policy in the Arab world. To be held on 25 October, the event will be hosted as part of DSG’s Gender and Public Policy Programme for policy makers, scholars and community leaders.
Dr May Al-Dabbagh, Director of the Gender and Public Policy Programme, will moderate the seminar that will examine the legal structures that need to be instituted for addressing such issues, as well as the current policies in the UAE and their limitations.
Lack of data was pointed out as one of the main challenges facing DFWAC and similar organizations working within this field, according to Al Basti. As part of its endeavour to close the gap, the Foundation and its partners aim to launch a nationwide study on domestic violence that will assess the magnitude of the problem. This survey will be the first-of-its-kind to be conducted in the UAE.
Dr. May Al-Dabbagh said: “Raising both social and legal awareness on the issue is imperative to help combat domestic violence. An ignorance of the laws makes women and children more vulnerable to acts of violence. Outreach is an important component of the work of the Gender and Public Policy Programme at DSG. Through our seminar series, we raise awareness on critical issues faced by women in the UAE.”
The UAE government prioritises the prevention of violence and exploitation of women and children’s rights. In March, Dubai Police held a specialized training programme to enable female officers to reach out to victims of domestic abuse and encourage reporting.
Afra Al Basti said: “No longer can we think of domestic abuse as a taboo subject. We cannot have a healthy society unless we ensure a solid and safe family unit. Despite government outreach programmes and civil society organisations playing a vital role in spearheading successful initiatives to reverse the trend, there is much to be done in our battle against domestic violence and abuse of rights.”
The Dubai School of Government was established in cooperation with the Harvard Kennedy School, to promote good governance through enhancing the region’s capacity for effective public policy. It is committed to the creation of knowledge, the dissemination of best practice and the training of policy makers in the Arab world.