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Violence against women is widespread in South Asian countries, especially in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Over 37% of married women are victims of physical or sexual abuse by their husbands in India and approximately only 5% are reported to the police.

Honour killings of daughters and wives is sadly very common. Dalit (the preferred name for the caste popularly known as 'Untouchable') women are exploited with gross inhumanity. If members of the Dalit group protest about the injustices which they are subjected to in daily life, they will often be humiliated by mobs who will strip naked Dalit women and parade them around in public as a punishment for such protest. In 2005, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was passed in India, providing the framework necessary for the protection of women - at least in legislative terms.

A number of women’s organisations are actively addressing the issues at the grassroots level. They have been trying to resolve the issues through several approaches e.g. gender-based, legal (litigation as well as literacy), policy advocacy, and empowerment of women.

In 2007 The Haven wolverhampton was delighted to be able to support Mr. Hasrat Arjjumend, Director of Indian charity Grassroots India, as he visited The Haven Wolverhampton to learn about the knowledge and resources need to develop domestic violence support services for women and children.

Hasrat spent 3 months in Wolverhampton and during his time with The Haven Wolverhampton visited The Haven refuges, received training on the Criminal Justice System of England and Wales (including meeting personnel from the Wolverhampton Specialist Domestic Violence Court), attended management meetings, received training on business plan development, visited external support organisations including Wolverhampton City Council and carried out his own research. As part of his visit Hasrat also delivered a presentation entitled ‘Violence Against Women in India’ to the then Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Trudy Bowen.

Grassroots India helps to build the capacity of communities and small NGOs, and since his visit to The Haven Wolverhampton in 2007 Hasrat has facilitated training to these groups on how to prevent and address issues of domestic violence. Hasrat feels he is now more knowledgeable about how to set up and develop women’s organisations and what support they need.

Hasrat’s visit was funded through the Commonwealth Fellowship Programme which encourages mutual co-operation and the sharing of educational experience among all countries of the Commonwealth.

Saudi Arabia

Statistics on the number of women who experience domestic violence, either at the hands of their husbands or other male relatives, are unavailable in Saudi Arabia. In a 2004 report compiled by ‘Women Living Under Muslim Laws’ it was suggested that "there is an abuse of women in our society just like any other society but it's not clear the size of this problem here". The report went on to say that even when a woman is beaten she does not speak out as it would bring shame to her family.

In 2008 The Haven Wolverhampton hosted a visit from Senior Representatives of the Saudi National Family Safety Program (NFSP). The National Family Safety Program (NFSP) was established following a Royal Decree (No. 11471/MB) to provide the provision of care and adequate services for the victims of this violence.

Ms Madeha Al-Ajroush (NFSP Board Member) and Dr Majid Al Eissa ( Head of Medical and Social Services Section of NFSP, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics) attended a week long training programme on domestic violence which covered theoretical background on domestic violence, National UK strategies and practical approaches e.g. services for victims. Particular attention was paid to multi-agency and partnership working. The visitors attended a meeting hosted by the Wolverhampton Domestic Violence forum which focused primarily on domestic violence and alcohol. The event was attended by various stakeholders and agencies from across Wolverhampton who work to provide domestic violence support provision in the City. The visitors also had a meeting with Jan Toplis, Head of Service for Safeguarding Children and Young People from Wolverhampton City Council to cover support services available for children in Wolverhampton.

Our visitors were impressed with the work of The Haven Wolverhampton and positive about the training programme. Evaluation and feedback forms were completed and stated that the training had helped reflect on their own attitudes, values and work practices. Our visitors stated: ‘All we have asked for was delivered in a very comprehensive and informative way’ and ‘Very well organised and informative’.

The Saudi National Family Safety Program (NFSP) was set up to develop new services for victims of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia. Ms Madeha Al-Ajroush and Dr Majid Al Eissa stated that they intent to use the knowledge received to create domestic violence training programmes for professionals working in this new sector to support victims who only recently had nowhere to go.

Recently we were delighted to hear that representatives from the NFSP had used information learnt from their visit to The Haven Wolverhampton in 2008 to develop a domestic violence training programme entitled ‘Fundamental Skills of Domestic Violence Cases’ which aims to teach professionals how best to recognise and respond to instances of abuse. Training was piloted with 15 social workers in the capital city of Riyadh and then delivered every few months in different provinces across the country. For more information on the innovative training programme please click here.


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