In a biting editorial that pulled no punches, editors of the Lebanon Daily Star, said it’s time for the Arab world to cease complaining and assume responsibility for change. As one reviews the Middle East, the situation is a disaster. Egypt is ruled by an autocrat who throws people into jail for questioning his health or plans to install his son as the next leader of the nation, Algeria is again entering a civil war situation that already engulfs Iraq, Turkey is preparing an invasion of Kurdistan, Syria doesn’t know whether to remain in its state of inertia or join the path of economic development, Palestinians are attempting to have a united front in a nation divided into factions, Jordan is overwhelmed by Iraqi refugees, Somalia is in utter chaos and the world is well aware of the Sudan/Darfur disaster. What can be done?
Two recent developments offer signs of moving ahead rather than remaining stuck in the quagmire of anger. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is creating a billion dollar university geared to preparing Saudi Arabians for the 21st century. Religious authorities are banned from the university and women will have equal rights with males on college grounds. The Mohammad bin Rashid al-Mkton Foundation(named after the ruler of Dubai) is creating a $10 project to foster economic development, expand women’s rights, fund research, stimulate scientific education, and move youth into the world in which they must live. As the Daily Star notes: “The idea is to ensure that the next generation can do more than complain about problems.”
Chile’s Nation Women Service (SERNAM) confirmed it is attempting to persuade the country’s Family Tribunals to assume a more proactive role in protecting women from abusive husbands. In a recent case which attracted national attention, Katherine Casas was brutally murdered by her former husband after unsuccessfully trying to obtain assistance from the Family Court system.
Family Tribunals were established in 2005 to mediate family conflicts and essentially were geared to meet the needs of low-income Chileans who lack the means to get involved in legal actions. Casas had told the Family Court her husband told her he would take a knife and slit my throat, but all that was done was setting a court date for further discussion. Under current legislation, it is difficult to convict a sexual aggressor without physical evidence of a woman’s physical struggle against him.
It is clear the Chilean police, like many Latin American constabularies, pay scant attention to men who physically abuse their wives and girl friends. It is viewed as simply his right to display machismo and beat up on women. Until there are changes in these cultural attitudes, little will be done to safeguard the right and physical safety of Chilean women.