Bahrain: Doctors join fight against abusers

Gulf Daily News
Doctors could soon be obliged to record all female patients who report to hospitals and clinics showing signs of abuse.
The Health Ministry is studying a proposal to issue compulsory forms, which doctors would have to fill out every time they treated a woman who had been attacked.
It is the idea of Amnesty International's (AI) National Partnership Committee, which is known as Al Sharaka, and was put forward at a meeting with doctors attended by Health Minister Dr Nada Haffadh.

Al Sharaka was set up late last year as part of a global AI campaign to highlight violence against women as a human rights issue.

The group hopes the move will ensure such cases are given special attention, as well as document the extent of violence against women in the country.

Its media director Fawzia Rabea said Dr Haffadh was keen to implement the proposal.

"We agreed at the meeting to set up a joint committee between the ministry and Al Sharaka to draw up a final draft of the form to be distributed to hospitals and health centres," she said.

Al Sharaka is represented on the committee by board members Dr Shaikha Al Zayani and Dr Muneera Al Shaikh.

It will be chaired by the ministry's Assistant Under-Secretary for Health Care Abdulwahab Mohammed.

"The new forms will include information about the victims' education standard, age and financial status, as well as the type and history of abuse, who committed the abuse and measures the victims took in the past or want to take in the future," said Ms Rabea.

She said the form would be instrumental in ensuring that abuse victims are treated differently from other patients.

"Doctors will have to give these cases special attention by talking to the victims and filling out the forms," she said.

It is thought the forms will provide reliable figures on how many women in Bahrain suffer abuse and give an insight into the reasons.

Ms Rabea says this will help combat the problem in Bahrain, which until now did not have any figures on violence against women.

Meanwhile, she welcomed new legislation proposed by an MP that would establish a national committee against domestic violence.

It was submitted to parliament on Monday by Al Menbar Islamic Bloc member Dr Abdullatif Al Shaikh and follows studies that revealed nearly a third of Bahraini men abused their wives, daughters, sisters or mothers.

The new legislation, if passed, would impose stiff penalties on those convicted of family violence.

Ms Rabea said it directly addresses the recommendations of AI's conference on combating violence against women, which took place in Manama in January.

"Topping the list of recommendations was enforcing a law that criminalises violence against women, which we see has now been proposed to parliament," she said.

The conference, held in Bahrain on January 8, spelled out 25 recommendations and called for a judicial, government and social action plan to stop violence against women.

By Abdulrahman Fakhri, Gulf Daily News, Vol XXVIII, NO. 31, Wednesday 20 April 2005