Moroccan TV tutorial: how to cover up the damage caused by family abuse?


Moroccan TV tutorial: how to cover up the damage caused by family abuse?
On November 23, Moroccan state television’s morning talk show aired a segment about the use of cosmetics to mask the scars of domestic violence. This is part of the international day for the elimination of violence against women, which will come two days later.
The reaction was swift and negative. The TV station apologized.
But the idea of covering up domestic violence reflects local attitudes, according to researchers and government surveys. In Morocco, when a man beats, rapes, cuts or burns his wife, the woman’s friends, family, and even the police are not unusual in telling her to go home and keep her mouth shut.
To learn more, we talked to two experts about this topic. Rothna Begum is a researcher on women’s rights in the Middle East and north Africa for human rights watch. In September 2015, she interviewed 20 women in Morocco experienced domestic violence, and interviewed dozens of women’s rights activists, lawyers, social workers and the staff to work with survivors of domestic violence. Sarah Kambou is President of the international center for women research.
Why do you think TV shows do this part?
Begum: makeup artists think this will help women hide their bruises so they can continue their daily lives. There is no negative intent around it, but it is misguided – women should focus on covering up rather than stopping violence. The station has apologized for the failure, but the damage has been done.
Kambou: I’m sure they think they’re helpful. But the negative consequences are the messages they send to men: your actions may be covered up.
The general attitude in Morocco is that spouse abuse is acceptable, you should cover it up?
Begum: I spoke with women and girls often say that they are under the pressure from my family and friends, to keep in touch with the abuser, to continue their lives and finding ways to continue to seek support. As far as we know, there are only 10 shelters across the country. Women talk about nowhere to go. One woman said she spent years running away with her children, but in a shelter she could only stay for two months.
How widespread is domestic violence in Morocco?
Begum: in 2009-2010 of 8300 aged between 18 and 65 – year – old woman to a government survey, two thirds of women (including married and unmarried) said that they are a form of victims of domestic violence. In that figure, 55 percent said the violence took place in the hands of the husband. Others were abused by their father or brother. Only 3 percent of husbands abused their women to report to the police.
A woman I spoke to was barbecued. When she went to see the police, they asked her if she had any witnesses. No. When they called her husband, he told the police that she had burned herself. “Which woman will kill herself?” she pleaded. But the police will not accept the report without witnesses.
International standards require laws on domestic violence to allow courts to consider other forms of evidence, such as photographs and medical reports.
Some of the women and girls I met talked about being beaten up as children, mostly their father or brother. They think they are fleeing violence just to find their victims again. An 18-year-old woman told me she was married at 16. She fled her father’s violence and married a ten-year-old man. On the wedding night, he asked her to dance naked in front of him and his friends. He has since raped her and knocked her unconscious. When she went to see the police, they did nothing. When she asked for a divorce, he tried to cut off her face, but instead cut her arm. It was her father who told her that she should stay with her husband even if he tried to kill her. I met her at the shelter. She is very brave. She has decided enough.
There are 125 countries around the world that have laws on domestic violence. How to change the attitude of a country?
Begum: when the law provides protection for women who want to escape and prosecute perpetrators, they can help. Only recently have we seen governments in the Middle East and north Africa take measures to deal with domestic violence. In Lebanon, there are only two years of domestic violence law, but the organization has done a lot to raise awareness of the law. The new law allows women to impose restraining orders on abusers, shelters for abused women, and sets up domestic violence units within the police force. One disadvantage is that Lebanese law does not criminalize marital rape. North African countries still lag behind in implementation: the perpetrators are at large, so they continue to be violent.
Camb: making the law in the book is just one focus of the strategy to combat domestic violence. If police and judicial departments don’t seriously, if they are not trained in how to welcome the victims of violence to seek recourse, if they don’t try to prevent further harm to women, that is not important good law.
What countries have made progress in changing attitudes towards domestic violence?
Camb: India has some progressive laws. We did some work in public schools in mumbai, and introduced a course focused on violence against girls and women. Two years after the programme began, attitudes to violence against girls and women fell by four percentage points, from 56 per cent to 52 per cent. In schools that did not use the curriculum, attitudes to violence rose by six percentage points, from 44% to 50%. Classes are being used in Bangladesh, the Philippines and northern Vietnam.
The show tells women how to cover up bruises with cosmetics could lead to more open discussion of domestic violence.
Begum: this topic is on the table now. After the makeup section was aired, activists and ordinary people reacted very quickly, angry at what they saw. They think it is sending the wrong message to the survivors of domestic violence. It has asked the moroccans to talk about it. You need to turn the “she deserves” attitude into “it’s a crime”.


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