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Domestic violence and community support system

It is not easy for women to escape the violence taking place behind the closed doors as they often find themselves unsupported, vulnerable to external abuses and plunged into poverty. Domestic violence not only distresses every member of the family, it has a negative impact on the wider society. Women facing abuses and children exposed to domestic violence at home tend to have many behavioural, social, emotional and mental problems.The issues of domestic violence in Britain gained public acknowledgement during 19th century following the feminist movement. Women were given rights to protection against brutal form of assault by their husbands, apply for separation and keep their own earnings if separated.  Women Liberation movement in 1970’s further brought key changes with respect to the gender power relationships both in public realm of politics, law and job market and private sphere of personal family life. The legislation of 1977 ( Homeless Persons Act 1977) recognised women leaving home due to domestic violence as homeless and gave priority to them and their children in allocating social housing. Despite the progress made through legislation and improvement in gender equality in labour market to this day, millions of women in Britain still suffer domestic abuse.

The United Nations declared domestic violence as human right abuse under Beijing Declaration and platform of action in 1995. In the UK, domestic violence is considered to be a crime and must be reported to the police ( Violence is classified as domestic because of the relational aspect rather than location. It can happen between two parties living together either as a married couple or just cohabiting. The nature of domestic violence is complex and should be contextualised within the societies it takes place. Abuses taking place between familial or personal relationships are connected to cultural beliefs and practices, power structure within the communities and discrimination in the wider society. Some forms of domestic violence are specific to certain cultures for e.g. in the traditional Hindu society widows are still considered to be unlikely and not fit for sitting by a new bride. In some male dominating cultures, women are considered to be the honour of the family and are prone to domestic violence.

Many women from different communities in the UK began to raise concerns regarding domestic violence in 1970s and 1980s. For instance, Southall Black Sisters and Brent Asian Women’s Refuge in London highlighted the specific violence experienced in Asian communities domestically and campaigned to bring legal and social changes. Their campaigns facilitated awareness and understanding of specific domestic violence faced by the South Asian women amongst researchers, government, activists and policy makers. They engaged in seeking recognition of the insecure immigrant status of women and forced marriages as a form of domestic violence. Since some forms of domestic violence are connected to cultural ideologies, norms and practices, approaching them from crime perspective may fail to uproot the main problem and not succeed in designing appropriate strategies to respond to them. Because of the vital correlation between cultural beliefs and practices and domestic violence, community help services and local refuge centres play essential role in assisting vulnerable individuals and reintegrate them into communities.
Besides providing essential services for worship, Mosques play a central role in creating awareness about family relationships and women’s right. They often provide support, time and recovery services to women facing a wide variety of social and domestic problems and violence, including those with complex health and mental needs. Workers from the local area, who understand the culture and traditions of the communities, are employed to help clients wishing to access the service. The workers befriend clients with a view to establishing a rapport and build trust. This opens avenues to discuss personal matters and also other broader issues in order to assess the holistic nature of the problems and the types of help and intervention required. The workers then move on to discuss target group’s preferences and needs, looking at all the practicalities and realities of their lives. This includes discussing matters of housing, finance and budgeting, benefits, domestic and family, children, recreation & leisure, skills and learning, and employment. A plan is created and implemented with the workers providing help, guidance and empowerment within appropriate transparent boundaries. The plan focuses on the identified issues and activities to deal with. The workers also help the clients to integrate into the communities which may take the form of engaging in recreation and leisure, introduction to skills for employment, options for learning and education, and signposting to other services within the voluntary and community sector.

*The copyright of this article is held by the Information and Public Affairs Department of Muslim Aid, UK. Use of its contents is allowed subject to acknowledgement. The opinions expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent the point of view of Muslim Aid. By: Amal Imad Information & Public Affairs Department Muslim Aid

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