You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

In Saudi Arabia, an Online Campaign Raises Awareness of Violence Against Women

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, May 30 2013

Screenshot of photos from the Libra Facebook page

Only a few weeks after Saudi Arabia launched its first major campaign against domestic violence, another campaign has picked up momentum on social media. Sponsored by Libra Productions, the campaign slogan is “Hit her (I dare you).”

Libra has uploaded to Facebook and Twitter pictures of men, women and children holding handwritten signs with messages like “Just because you are male doesn't necessarily mean you are a man,” and “There is no manliness in violence. I salute your manhood.” Al Jazeera reported that “the campaign has received a huge response, especially from men.”

However, the implicit threat in the campaign slogan – to hit a woman a face the consequences – is still an empty one. There are currently no laws against domestic violence in Saudi Arabia, although the King Khalid Foundation, a charity and advocacy group, is trying to pass legislation that would punish a man for beating his wife.

But will changing the law be enough to change an entire culture? A Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, Adam Coogle, told CNN that, “Women who speak out about emotional abuse or neglect often face societal judgments. There is a prevalent attitute that if a man hits his wife, it's acceptable, because she's not being a good wife.” Saudi Arabia ranked 130th out of 134 countries for gender parity in 2009.

Worse, a Saudi Arabia columnist wrote recently that violence against women is actually on the rise, in spite of the recent initiatives to counter the abuse.

At the very least, however, the subject is now part of a public discourse and no longer being swept under the rug.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.