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7-02-2012 - Saudi Gazette

Women are now a subject of 'financial abuse'

Women are ignorant and vulnerable, hence have been frequent victims of abuse across cultures; and women in Kingdom are no exception even in this era.

Despite progressing and being open-minded, women are succumb to some sort violence and abuse at home or at work. Differences, jealousy and prejudices still exist.

Abuse has many forms and a new form of abuse recently risen in Saudi culture is "financial abuse" readily directed toward working women.

‘No Problems', a counseling center in the Kingdom supports married couples and families recently conducted survey, which revealed that 50 percent of working women in our society are victims of this abuse.

An overpowering man in a woman's life either deprives her of her rightful inheritance that Islam has granted her or takes her monthly employment salary or monetary retirement benefits or any other source of income which she has or has had.

The President of the ‘No Problems' center, Dr. Salma Sebih, said, "This form of mistreatment of women is the most common complaint we receive from working women at the center and at the courts."

Financial abuse begins at home with the husband, brother or father taking undue advantage of their wives, sisters or mothers income. In most cases, a wife, usually, silently submits to such pressures because she fears that if she does not hand over the money her husband may divorce her or prevent her from leaving the house and meeting her family or resort to physical abuse.

Sebih explains, "There are two poignant cases that I witnessed firsthand. One was a married woman who had a stable job and her husband compelled her to take a loan from the bank in her name to build a lofty villa. After she received the huge loan and he constructed the new house, the couple registered the house under the husband's name. As soon as she transferred ownership to her husband, he divorced her and married another woman. Unfortunately, now he is the legal owner of the house that she has paid for with her own sweat, and she continues to pay back the bank loans every month."

She further continued, "The other story is of a married working woman whose father died and her brother refused to give her the portion of inheritance that legally belonged to her. The woman's husband was hungry for her share of inheritance as well and he demanded that she pay up. When she insisted that she did not receive any money from her father's inheritance, he kicked her out of the house."

In Sebih's opinion, the society is in need of more centers, women's shelters, and legal counselors that support women, defend them, and help protect their rights. She believes that if there were institutes backing women's rights that would penalize men for robbing a woman of her rights in Islam, many men would hesitate to financially abuse their wives or sisters.

A survey was conducted by a center called Roya (vision) that aimed to study how widespread the problem of financial abuse really is in our society and to determine the public's opinion on it.

The head of the public relations and media department, Dr. Ezzat Al-Shadhli, told Al-Watan daily that the study found that 70 percent agreed that monopolizing a woman's wage should be considered a form of abuse. In addition, 20 percent reported that they personally knew a woman whose husband has full control over her monthly salary and 10 percent reported that they knew women whose miserly husbands refused to spend any money on them due to the fact their wives are working.

A social worker, Ahmad Abu Shama, shed some light on some of the reasons why financial abuse has become common in our society. "The most important factor in financial abuse is misunderstanding and complete disregard of Islamic principles that guarantee the protection of a woman's financial rights and forbid any man or even woman from taking away a woman's income or inheritance.

Some men who commit this grave mistake are drug addicts, unemployed or simply greedy.

"Times have changed and money is increasingly becoming a top priority and financial gain is becoming precedence over family values and social relations.

Financial abuse is commonly accompanied by emotional and mental abuse, which creates a stressful environment at home and often leads to divorce," said Abu Shama.

He advises women to firmly refuse and not succumb to threats, financial abuse, and all forms of abuse from any man in her life. Victims of abuse should seek help and file an official complaint to the courts if the couple is unable to resolve the problem at home.

"People have to understand that a woman's money belongs to her and her alone. A woman's husband has no right to take her salary or even ask her for her inheritance or any financial sum given to her as a gift from her parents or relatives when she was visiting her family.

Many people are unaware that none has the right to even question her or interfere in how she chooses to spend the money which she has lawfully earned through her job or inheritance," said Sameera Al-Ghamdi, chairperson of Family Protection Charitable Society in Jeddah.

"Financial abuse involves stripping a woman of her emotions and self-esteem before emptying her pockets," she concludes.

 

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