Discrimination Against Women in Syrian Society (II/II): Perception of Domestic Violence

Posted on: September 26, 2017 at 8:59 am

In order to identify the perception of domestic violence against women in Syrian society, The Day After has conducted a survey which included six Syrian provinces, in areas controlled by both the regime, Democratic self-governance and the opposition, in addition to the refugee camps in Turkey. The survey depended on a multistage stratified sample which adopted proportional allocation (men/women). The number of respondents totaled 2091; 1120 men and 971 women. Data was collected using a questionnaire and through personal interviews conducted by The Day After’s trained researchers. This report presents the results of the data analysis.


The research begins by trying to identify the respondents’ perception of the prevalence of domestic violence against women, and finds that women are more aware of abusive incidents of this kind, and that their concern for the children and “the feeling of shame and the desire not to share their problems with others”, in addition to the absence of an institution that women trust can protect them, were the most prominent reasons why abused women remain silent. The percentage of women who said that they have experienced domestic violence is 21.2%, which is double the percentage of men who reported the same answer. In 61.5% of cases the abuser is the partner, but only a small percentage of victims (less than 7%) reported the abusive husband to one of the concerned institutions. In general, women do not report domestic violence practiced against them. The results also reveal that the majority of domestic violence incidents (69.2%) occur in the presence of minors (sons, relatives or others). In more than a third of these assaults these minors are also exposed to violence.


In the second chapter, emphasis is placed on one of the most prevalent forms of domestic violence against women; spousal violence. The greater percentage of men (more than one-third) believe that the prevalence of this kind of violence is small or rare, while the largest percentage of women (43.3%) say it is prevalent to some extent, or that it is widely prevalent. The analysis of the results shows that there is a moderate and positive relationship between exposure to domestic violence and the belief in the prevalence of spousal violence, as those who were personally exposed to domestic violence tend to believe that spousal violence is widely prevalent. Despite the fact that there is almost a consensus that physical abuse and deprivation of liberty are cases of violence that require legal accountability, around a third of respondents do not believe that this applies to verbal threats and abuse. However, looking at the data based on gender shows a dramatic difference in attitudes, as half of the men do not wish to punish the perpetrator of physical abuse, and the majority of them reject such punishment for the perpetrator of the deprivation of liberty. The areas, along with the social and demographic groups, in which the percentage of those who do not agree with punishing the perpetrator is high are later defined.


To create a deeper understanding of the respondents’ perception of spousal violence against women, the study devotes the third chapter to the justifications for such violence and finds wide acceptance for religious justification (Islamic Law allows the beating of wives in some cases) and for laying the responsibility on women for the violence committed against them, being the ones who push their husband to commit violence in some cases. In both cases, the proportion of those who refused these two justifications is up to one-third. Justification by comparison (the cases of violence against wives in Syria are fewer in comparison to neighbouring Arab countries) appears to be the most common (opposed by only 16.9%). The least popular justification was laying responsibility on the woman for being uneducated (women who have experienced or are experiencing violence from their spouses are usually uneducated) which was opposed by 45% of respondents. What is interesting is the big difference in the demographic and social characteristics of categories among which this latter justification prevails, in comparison to other justifications; among Secularists, not Islamists, among the minorities, and  not the majority of Sunnis or Arabs, and in large cities (Damascus, Aleppo and Homs), and not in Idlib and the camps in Turkey.


In the last chapter of this report a very sensitive issue is addressed; what is known as “Honor” killings. The city of Al-Hasakah has the highest percentage of respondents who stated that they had heard about violent incidents of this kind during the past year, yet these respondents are the most supportive of dealing with such acts like any other crime. The general attitude is biased towards addressing this type of crime in a way different from other murders. However, women are much stricter on this issue than men, with around a third of them stating, in almost all cases (except in the event of an illicit relationship), that it must be dealt with like any other murder, compared to around a quarter of the number of men. It seems that the collective (men and women) tend substantially towards the commutation of sentence in the event of the discovery that the victim.engaged in an illicit relationship. Hence, tremendous efforts to influence views in this regard will be required.


This study does not only provide estimates of the prevalence of domestic violence and its perception in Syrian society, but also provides details, as it defines the demographic and social characteristics of the categories where the refusal to deal with honor killings as any other murder is increasing, as well as the refusal of legal accountability for the aggressor in the case of spousal violence. This study also defines the justifications that accompany such aggressions. This information will help organizations and authorities develop the plans and programs necessary to work on achieving what Syrian activists initiated earlier in 2005 under the title of “the national campaign against honor killings,” and other activities intending to end all forms of discrimination against women in Syria.


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