Legal Support For Embattled Wives
Bahraini women are losing battles incourt due to a lack of awareness of their rights, according to a leading socialworker.
By Basma Mohammed
Their ignorance about Sharia lawoften allows cases to be ruled in favour of their husbands, said Bahrain WomenUnion (BWU) family counsellor Hanan Abdulla.
"Due to them not knowing thelaws and legislation regarding family matters, they become hopeless in frontjudges at Sharia Courts," she said.
"This leads them to lose theircases, even though they could have easily won if they were more aware of theirrights."
Ms Abdulla is trying to turn thesituation around working at the BWU's legal department to give women advice andcounselling on domestic cases.
"We provide counsellingservices for free at the union to help women know their rights better,"she said.
Ms Abdulla revealed since the officewas established in 2008, it has received at least four calls daily from womenseeking guidance.
"Some of them can't even reador write, making themselves easy targets to lose their battles," she said.
The office also appoints lawyers forwomen to defend them in Sharia Courts.
"Most of those who seek ourhelp are financially struggling," said Ms Abdulla.
"We provide services such asappointing a lawyer to help them with their cases."
One of the cases spearheaded by theunion is that of Bahraini Amal Juma Abdulla, who has been fighting to get adivorce from her husband for four years.
The mother-of-four is also embroiledin a court dispute with her husband over ownership of their house, which isregistered in her name.
A Sharia Court has already ruled inher favour once, but her husband has appealed.
The house was bought for the familyby a VIP after the GDN revealed they were forced to sleep rough two years ago.
Their old home had becomedangerously dilapidated, forcing Amal, her husband and their four children tosleep in a tent on wasteland off the Budaiya Highway.
But the 33-year-old housewife wasdevastated when judges at the Jafaari Sharia Court approved her divorce inreturn of a settlement that would have seen her pay her husband BD1,000 andgive up part of her house.
She refused the ruling, saying itwas unfair to her and her children.
"Judges know this house is myproperty after my husband put it under my name," she said.
"How can we live in one housewhen we are divorced?"
Amal has since sent a letter to theSupreme Council for Women, calling for an independent judicial committee tostudy her case.
"The judges who ruled mydivorce case are the same ones who ruled for my house ownership case," shesaid.
"I fear my husband has affectedtheir judgement and that's why I think I deserve an independent jury."
Judges at the country's Sharia Courtsystem deliver judgements based on their individual interpretation of Islam.
Women's rights campaigners have longcalled for a Family Law to be adopted, meaning domestic disputes would bedecided based on pre-approved criteria.
They argue this would bring an endto alleged discrimination against women in the Sharia Court, claimingjudgements often favour men, cases drag on and can leave women homeless orwithout any form of child support - even when they are granted custody.
Bahraini husbands were allegedlyextorting money out of wives who filed for divorce, but many did not haveenough cash to feed their families.
Several women claimed to have beendriven to poverty by the justice system.
A Family Law was finally approvedfor Bahrain's Sunni community by MPs and the Shura Council in May last year.
However, a similar law for theShi'ite community was vetoed by religious leaders and MPs, with some arguing itshould first be approved by top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistaniin Iraq.