A public service advertisement aims to raise awareness of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia. Afia R Fitriati reports.
The powerful imagery of a recent public service advertisement in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has caught the attention of many outside its borders.
It features a close-up picture of the face of a woman wearing the burqa, and one of her eyes is bruised. The slogan: Some things can’t be covered: Fighting women’s abuse together.
The Kingdom’s newly launched campaign aims to offer ‘comprehensive protection of women and children from all forms of abuse’, its website says. The movement, sponsored by the King Khalid Foundation, represents step of progress for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia this year.
And it’s about time, as a 2012 World Economic Forum report ranked Saudi Arabia 131st out of 134 countries in gender equality.
‘One in every six women is abused verbally, physically or emotionally every day, and 90 percent of the abusers are usually husbands or fathers,’ wrote Saudi columnist Samar Fatany in Al Arabiya. ‘According to research… most women are not aware of their rights and some men violate religious teachings and follow aberrant customs and traditions.’
One notorious example was the rape and murder of five-year-old Lama al-Ghamdi, a crime perpetrated by her own father. In spite of international outrage, the man – a preacher who regularly appeared on Saudi television – received a few months of jail time and a fine of $50,000. Had Lama been a boy, that amount would have been double.
According to a Huffington Post report, the campaign encourages Saudis to report incidents of domestic abuse at various locations around the Kingdom, including Madina, Najran, Mecca and Riyadh.
The ad has quickly gone viral on social media sites and won wide acclaim. It can only be hoped that the campaign itself is not an aberration but rather one of the first steps towards the dramatic improvement of the welfare of women in the Saudi kingdom.