The key problem with abusive relationships is that the victim is usually not aware that the relationship is, in fact, abusive.
However, the vast majority of women, in Egypt specifically, normalized the concept of abuse a long time ago. Moreover, they keep on passing their inheritance to young girls.
In recent weeks, many posts emerged on Facebook in which a few women told their stories describing their husbands going violent. These stories were shared on Facebook and labelled as ‘funny’.
“My husband broke a plastic chair on me because I was wearing a red lipstick,” one woman said, adding, “He told me: are you a dancer?”
Another one said that her husband got physically violent against her when she asked why she had to eat the leftovers of fish after the husband and kids had finished eating.
“He beat me up because there was water outage and I couldn’t cook anything,” another woman shared.
The stories were described as funny. They weren’t only labelled as such, but also normalized and described as “something that regularly happens,” according to many comments.
While a segment of women now realizes that abuse is not alright, a large segment remains under the impression that men can physically abuse their wives for whatever reason there is.
A culture rooted for as long as we can remember
In Egypt, it is culturally common that men have the upper hand in relationships, making it ‘rational’ for women when their partners decide to dim their lights. It was only recently that women started demanding their basic rights, and it is rather challenging because they are usually opposed by other women who have no problem with men being in charge; hence, believing that they can control their wives’ behaviour through violence.
A video circulated on Facebook recently of an Egyptian woman who clearly opposed all women who want to work and called on them to take to their homes and wait for their husbands to spend money on them. A quick scan of women’s private groups on Facebook is enough to catch a glimpse of how women who decided to cancel their priorities have suffered after a divorce when their partners denied them their rights in term of finances and responsibilities towards their kids.
The patterns of behaviour are similar in most cases; abusive husbands always win the arguments and know how to trigger feelings of guilt. Perhaps that is why a large segment of women in Egypt believe that it is ‘Okay’ if their husbands choose to get violent when they are angry.
“He slapped me on the face when I was pregnant because I told him he hadn’t had the money for us to go the gynaecologist,” another woman continued.
When is violence acceptable?
Violence is never acceptable. Women are, usually, compelled to describe the entire situation that led to the violent attack when, in fact, there is no need to know the context. Moreover, considering the situation as funny and sharing it on Facebook is offensive and it stirs grievance.
Worse yet are the comments by other women on a variety of stories who try to tell better stories of abuse and violence. While a few women reject the violence and start providing advice, others consider the stories funny and share them with their circles.
Why are women not taking an action?
Egypt’s Law of Personal Status is currently undergoing a revamp; the amendments have been expected to be discussed in the parliament two years ago.
One of the most important issues is the fact that men in Egypt can initiate divorce without consent. However, there are a few cases in which women can initiate divorce including domestic violence. In this case, they risk losing their financial entitlements in addition to being deprived of more basic rights. With low inheritance and often no jobs, divorce is not considered an option for some women as they need financial security. Furthermore, the law doesn’t particularly criminalise domestic violence; assaults that lead to severe injuries can be treated as a felony, not a domestic violence case.
What needs to be done?
For starters, people should refrain from making fun of feminists and labelling them as people who discuss irrelevant ideas and principles because apparently, they are relevant.
Normalizing violence against women is common, yet it shouldn’t be. Violence is not funny; abuse can’t be used for a laugh and women rights need to be properly and actively addressed to allow relevant change to take place.