Intimate partner violence during COVID-19 and Islam
To The Editor
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a major public health problem across the world, and is more commonly referred to as domestic violence. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines IPV as "any behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those in the relationship". Globally, 30% of women experience some form of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. It is typically experienced by women but can also be experienced by men. (1) Globally, IPV is the leading cause of homicide death for women. There is also a growing evidence suggesting that IPV might increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. (2)
During the quarantine due to the COVID-19, homes might have become a dangerous place for victims of IPV, since they are required to stay the whole day with partners and away from people who can validate their experiences and give help. (3)
Intimate partner violence is considered to be also a problem in Muslim-majority cultures. (4,5)
In a study from Egypt, women reported experiencing physical, emotional, and sexual violence at 26.7%, 17.8%, and 4.6%, respectively. (4) During the COVID-19 pandemic, there is very scarce data emerging from the Islamic countries with sporadic social media reports about domestic violence. In the absence of solid data, it is difficult to speculate, however, IPV is probably less likely to surge during the quarantine in Islamic countries than in the West, since there is much less alcohol drinking in Islamic countries, particularly during the month of Ramadan, more family ties, and generally more religious adherence during the time of catastrophes. Adherence to religious traditions is still considered as a barrier against drinking among both Muslims and Jews. (6)
Violence against women is not an Islamic tradition. The Qur’anic principles protect the status of women and support family values. The Qur’an sees women as full partners in the devotional rights of Islam. The marriage in Qur’an involves intimacy, support, and equality, saying, “They are your garments, and you are their garments” (Quran 2:187). Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, said, “The Prophet never hit a servant or a woman” (Sahih Al-Bukhari). Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) never resorted to beating his wives, regardless of the circumstances. (7)
The Prophet instructed Muslims regarding women, "I command you to be kind to women." He also said: "The best of you is the best to his family (wife) (Sunan al-Tirmidhī). The Quran urges husbands to be kind and considerate to their wives, even if a wife falls out of favor with her husband. A translation of Quran says, "O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness. (Quran 4:19).
Dr. Jamal Badawi, author of “Gender Equity in Islam” indicates that "under no circumstances does the Quran encourage, allow, or condone family violence or physical abuse. In extreme cases, and in an effort to save the marriage it allows for a husband to administer a gentle pat with a miswak (a small natural toothbrush) to his wife that causes no sort of physical harm to the body nor leaves any sort of mark. It may bring to the wife's attention the seriousness of her continued unreasonable behavior, and may be resorted to only after exhausting other prerequisite steps". (8)
In several hadiths, the Prophet (PBUH) directly discouraged the practice of wife beating. He considered the men who beat their wives as lacking in character, as indiscriminate in their behavior, and as unethical. (9)
1. WHO Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. World Health Organization, 2013.
2. El-Serag, R., Thurston, R.C., 2020. Matters of the Heart and Mind: Interpersonal Violence and Cardiovascular Disease in Women. J. Am. Heart Assoc. 9, e015479. https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.120.015479
3. Mazza M, Marano G, Lai C, Janiri L, Sani G. Danger in danger: Interpersonal violence during COVID-19 quarantine [published online ahead of print, 2020 Apr 30]. Psychiatry Res. 2020; 289:113046. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113046
4. Yaya S, Hudani A, Buh A, Bishwajit G. Prevalence and Predictors of Intimate Partner Violence Among Married Women in Egypt [published online ahead of print, 2019 Nov 13]. J Interpers Violence. 2019;886260519888196. doi:10.1177/0886260519888196
5. Alsaleh A. Violence Against Kuwaiti Women [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 13]. J Interpers Violence. 2020;886260520916280. doi:10.1177/0886260520916280
6. Neumark, Y. D., Rahav, G., Teichman, M., & Hasin, D. Alcohol drinking patterns among Jewish and Arab men and women in Israel. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 2001. 62(4), 443–447.
7. Nadir.A. Domestic violence hurts Muslims too. https://www.soundvision.com/article/domestic-violence-hurts-muslims-too
8. Badawi J. Gender Equity in Islam: Basic Principles. American Trust Publications, 1995. ISBN-13: 978-1882837205
9. Ammar NH. Wife battery in Islam: a comprehensive understanding of interpretations. Violence Against Women. 2007;13(5):516‐526.
Hassan Chamsi-Pasha, FRCP, FACC. Cardiac department, King Fahd Armed Forces Hospital, Jeddah, Saudi-Arabia. (email@example.com)
Majed Chamsi-Pasha, MBBS, SBIM, Jeddah, Saudi-Arabia.
Mohammed Ali Albar, MD, FRCP. Medical Ethics department, International Medical Center, Jeddah, Saudi-Arabia.
Competing interests: No competing interests