Women and children are often subjected to more subtle cases of abuse beyond physical, with emotional and sexual trauma proving far more prevalent than most would care to assume. According to Suraiya Nawab, director and founding member of Islamic Careline, such manifestations of abuse often go under the radar because they prove far harder for family and friends to pick up.
“Gender-based violence against women and children is easy to spot when physical because people will have bruise marks, a blue eye or broken nose. Because it is so physically visible it is regarded as abuse. But in effect if you look at other types of abuse such as verbal, emotional and even financial and sexual, these are not normally as noticeable,” she explains.
The issue of abuse is again taking centre stage as South Africa embarks on its annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children awareness campaign.
Nawab reiterated that it is far more complicated to spot how emotional abuse is affecting the victim until such point they become nervous, overanxious in public places or displays some characteristics of insecurity.
“Those signs come in the process of being emotionally abused and are not readily discernable for people to see. In terms of Islamic Careline and the cases over the last 23 years that we have seen, verbal and emotional abuse is much more difficult for women to actually come to terms with than physical abuse,” she notes.
Nawab suggests that women caught up in the cycle of abuse will often prefer to be physically assault by her spouse or partner and have them eventually stop, as opposed to being subjected to constant emotional abuse.
Within an Islamic context, the use of the talaq (warning of divorce) has often also been used as a means of abuse by males against their spouses. This is particularly in the cases were the divorce is being withheld from the women.
Nawab says the talaq is often pronounced in anger by husbands, who swiftly regret their decision to issue it.
“That withholding of the talaq out of spite or being manipulative is also a way of abusing women. Talaq is a responsibility given to a male, not a right and they must act with it with the utmost care,” she concludes. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)