Tragically, it was inevitable. As more and more governments issued “stay at home” orders during the coronavirus pandemic, cases of domestic violence against women rose across the MENA.
Nations worldwide have reported a rise in cases, but in large parts of the MENA the numbers were telling a dark story long before coronavirus. In 2018, a study by the National Council of Women in Egypt found that 1.5 million Egyptian women report domestic violence each year. In Afghanistan the situation is also shocking: the UN estimates that more than half of Afghan women face domestic abuse from their husband in their lifetime. These totals could in fact be much higher, because of the many women who are unable to report violence for various reasons.
LOCKED IN, LASHING OUT
As families were forced to stay under the same roof for extended periods of time, this terrible situation has dramatically worsened. From Heart to Heart, a SAT-7 ARABIC show which seeks to guide couples towards healthy relationships, recently hosted a counsellor on air who shared that the number of calls to hotlines reporting abuse and seeking help are now 200 per cent higher [in Lebanon].
Confinement brought the walls in on all of us. For many cultures in the MENA, those walls contain traditional family models where women and children are not encouraged to share an opinion or disagree with the male head of the family. Commonplace parenting techniques such as beating, shouting and intimidation create a range of trauma for children and increase levels of tension in the home.
Consider the additional challenges of lockdown – job insecurity, isolation – and it is easy to understand why the domestic abuse crisis has spiralled out of control. Lashing out physically or verbally at family members is not even frowned upon in many communities, and the tensions of the time were so high; a rise in problems was sadly inevitable.
A BETTER WAY
SAT-7 programmes have been denouncing domestic abuse as well as showing a better way. “We need to see this time as an opportunity to get to know [our families] better and spend quality time with them,” shares Meltem Aslan, a lawyer and political activist. Meltem (pictured) was appearing on SAT-7 TÜRK programme Homemade, which seeks to empower female viewers all over Turkey by discussing practical issues with successful Turkish female professionals.
Parenting support programme The Coach, broadcasting on SAT-7 ARABIC, changed its hours of broadcasting to the “new prime time” to fit in with national curfews. Dedicating six episodes to coronavirus-related issues, The Coach had some urgent advice to get out: stay away from social media and focus on one credible news source for information; use your time wisely and get to know your family better; stay positive and avoid worst-case scenario thinking. The show has received feedback from viewers showing how it has transformed their parenting and their lives. If The Coach’s advice truly takes root, domestic abuse in those households will be eradicated.
For teenage viewers in the MENA who live in a tense or abusive environment, pre-recorded SAT-7 ACADEMY show Flexawii offers a huge helping hand. Presenter Mr. Flex – ventriloquist, beatboxer and breakdancer – guides teenagers and parents through life’s turbulent times, in the most entertaining of ways. Backed up by the expert insights of Mary Sameeh, a professor of educational psychology and sexuality, Flexawii helps families to communicate and love each other better.
Sadly, it seems likely that the problem of domestic abuse will be here for a long time to come. But SAT-7 is committed to speaking out against it and showing how God’s love can transform families.
- Pray on behalf of the women who are suffering domestic abuse in Lebanon. Ask for their protection and peace.
- Pray that God will fill SAT-7’s viewer support teams with courage and wisdom to speak life and truth to those who
contact the channels.
- Pray for SAT-7 ARABIC’s relationship-counselling show From Heart to Heart, that it will inspire positive change in many couples this summer.
- Praise God for our eternal hope! “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” Revelation 21:4 (NIV).