Jordan: Project launched to fight violence against women

Jordanian officials have joined hands with the private sector to fight violence against women, launching a 5-year project that will attempt to rectify misconceptions about this phenomenon and provide aid to victims, say women rights activists.
Queen Rania, wife of king Abdullah, chaired a meeting for activists from the public and private sector this week to announce the launch of the US$1 million project, supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and was very clear about her desire to put up a strong fight against this phenomena.
"It is your role to raise awareness about violence, and clarify that it is against our customs, religion, and laws," Queen Rania told the participants of the workshop, pointing out that violence against women and children is an affront to human rights. The project aims to provide violence abuse victims with badly needed care and raise awareness among the public on the ramifications of abuse.

Media campaigns, training

Activists will organize media campaigns and public events, as well as provide staff from civil society groups and the health sector with training on how to handle the highly sensitive issue. Medical staff from nine private hospitals and government centres that deal with abuse victims will be trained in special workshops on how to detect family violence.

The National Council for Family Affairs (NCFA), the main architect of the project, wants to target policy and decision makers to persuade them to address the violence as a national priority. "Our main focus will be to explain to people from all backgrounds, including those working for the government, such as the ministries of social development, education, health and justice… on how to handle this issue in the most proper ways," said Jamil Smadi, secretary-general of the NCFA.

Organizers also hope to reach 42,000 women in their homes to raise their awareness, provide them with counselling sessions and direct those who are victims of violence to the appropriate referral centres.

Honour killings

Every year, 20-25 women are reported killed in Jordan in the name of family honour. Reports indicate that most killers receive as little as six months in prison because they are deemed by the courts to have committed their crimes while in a rage and because their families dropped charges against them. In the past few years, nationwide campaigns were launched to end honour killings and other types of violence against women.

Smadi has complained about the absence of unified records on violence cases, their type as well as services provided to victims. Lack of suitable facilities and shortage of well trained staff in running women’s support centres is a main concern for rights activists, said Smadi.

In Jordan’s conservative society, activists complain that many cases of violence are brushed under the carpet, sometimes with the help of the police and social workers. "Some people don't want to or are afraid to admit the existence of problems in Jordanian families and some pretend these problems do not exist," head of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine Momen Hadidi said, noting that society, including victims, is inclined to hide the issue when things get out of control. "We need to address these issues in order to find proper solutions. It is like a disease. If you do not treat its causes immediately it will only increase and become uncontrollable," Hadidi said.

12 September 2007