Violence against women and the responsibility of Saudi authorities
The National Assembly Party (NAAS) denounces the oppression of women in Saudi Arabia, the laws and security apparatuses’ complacency and negligence in addressing systemic violence against women, and the absence of protective structures against community and domestic violence. We condemn the Saudi authorities’ obstructive approach to community initiatives to address domestic violence and the authorities’ own increasing transgressions against women. Violence against women is rooted in practices of marginalisation, disempowerment, and discrimination, which render women vulnerable to domestic, community, and state violence. It is compounded by a patriarchal culture that assigns men as guardians over women’s lives and justifies violence under the pretext of protecting family honour and maintaining discipline. It is also reinforced by legal codes that either tolerate this culture or turn a blind eye to all forms of violence against women, and perpetuated by state authorities that suppress the voices of women, their assemblies, and movement to change this reality.
We assert that what feeds this violence is the authorities’ failure to enact the laws, resources and mechanisms necessary for the protection of victims of domestic violence. We assert that existing laws and state apparatuses are complicit in spreading, justifying, and covering up a culture of violence and oppression against women. This complicity begins with the authorities’ Domestic Violence Reporting Centres and police stations and continues in the courts, which are, on the one hand, content with giving written warnings to assailants, and, on the other, force victims to sign gag orders on their own cases. Victims, furthermore, can end up in prison-like conditions in the authorities’ so-called shelters, which nothing more than detention centres they cannot leave without a male guardian’s approval. The systemic inaction by governmental agencies towards reports made by victims led to reporting becoming a contributing factor to the continuation and exacerbation of domestic abuse. There are no laws in place that deter assailants (e.g., restraining orders), nor are there suitable emergency shelters for victims of domestic violence of all nationalities and backgrounds – with migrant women being completely discounted from initiatives addressing violence against women.
We call upon our people, from all social backgrounds and attitudes, to oppose femicide and other forms of violence against women and to refrain from justifying such transgressions or treating them as private ‘family matters.’ We call upon them to stand on the side of victims and to enshrine the rights of women as equal citizens. We remind our people that the authorities’ culpability is not limited to their inaction in the face of an epidemic of violence against women; high-ranking officials and personnel are in fact directly involvement in this violence. This is evidenced in the arbitrary arrest of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) who fought for an end to discrimination and for protection from violence. Their arrest was followed by imprisonment and brutal torture, including sexual harassment. The authorities did not stop at targeting WHRDs, even victims of domestic violence that speak out on social media asking for help and redress – and those who help them – have faced reprisal.
We, therefore, denounce all forms of violence against women, which, due to impunity provided to assailants, escalates to outright murder. We also assert that authorities must enact laws and mechanisms to deter assailants, protect victims, end all forms of inhumane treatment of women in our homeland, and truly empower women and acknowledge their inalienable rights in both state and society.