Nahshal, Maha (2018) “My husband knows what is best for me…”: An exploration of educated Saudi women’s views towards domestic violence. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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Domestic violence, as we know from existing literature, is an ancient and global phenomenon (United Nations Report, 1970-90, 1991; World Health Organisation, 2005; Kaur & Garg, 2008). However, in Saudi Arabia, the problem of domestic violence only came under the spotlight about a decade ago, after a famous TV presenter, publicly came forward when her husband brutally abused her (Vallis, 2004). At the time, she was considered quite the rebel as she broke the socio-cultural taboo of Saudi women suffering violence in silence. What followed was a storm of discussion and debate about domestic violence against women in Saudi Arabia, and in its wake, domestic violence finally found its way in Saudi vocabulary. However, despite the increasing awareness, there is still a limited and insufficient studies on domestic violence in Saudi Arabia (Fikree and Bhatti 1999; Haj-Yahia 2002; Yount 2005; Al-Atrushi et al 2013).
Consequently, this research seeks to shed light on how educated Saudi women view domestic violence in Saudi Arabia as a socio-cultural problem, which is characterized by a unique family culture, informed by distinctive traditions of gender differentiation and corresponding gendered power structures, including the practice of male guardianship, both in the public and private spheres. To explore this problem in depth, thirty well-educated Saudi women were asked to participate in a qualitative study that employed phenomenology to ascertain their thoughts and feelings on domestic violence. To collect this data, the semi-structured interview method was determined to the most effective for coding and thematising data, thus allowing for both inductive and deductive analysis, and providing scope to focus on interpretations and its links between social contexts.
This study illuminates some of the ways that Saudi culture, which is strict, conservative and orthodox, is influenced by the misuse of religion, family socialisation practices, patriarchy and societal attitudes to contribute to a fairly unique experience and phenomenon of domestic violence. Saudi society actively encourages traditional gender roles, resulting in inequality between men and women. Consequently, Saudi women are deprived of their rights through citizenship, especially by the practice of male guardianship, which leaves them confined to the private sphere, without autonomy and dependent on males, thus giving men unlimited space to commit acts of domestic violence against women whilst women are confined to spaces and have limited avenues to vocalize their suffering.
The study also draws attention to the positive steps that the Saudi government has taken within the last ten years to give women more autonomy, who would then be able to free themselves from domestic violence. The empowerment of Saudi women has been a gradual and systematic process, including increased academic and professional opportunities and involvement in the decision-making process on a state level. Moreover, Saudi women are now actively fighting for their rights, especially the right to be a full citizen without dependency on the male.
The findings in this research have the potential to bring further positive changes to the status of women in Saudi Arabia. Firstly, it establishes the need for continued and further in-depth investigation of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia. Secondly, it can help inform and guide the activists and campaigners for women’s rights and equality in Saudi Arabia. Lastly, it can aid policy- and decision-makers to develop effective strategies to address domestic violence.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare > HV40 Social service. Social work. Charity organization and practice
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Science and Public Policy
Contributors: Findlow, Sally (Thesis advisor)
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2019 10:01
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2020 15:42

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