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Today on the 700 Club’s “Bring It On” segment where viewers ask Robertson questions, one man wondered how he should go about repairing his marriage with a wife who “insults” him and once tried to attack him.

“Well, you could become a Muslim and you could beat her,” Robertson responded. The co-host interjected, " But, in lieu of that." Prompting Robertson, "You don't want to go to Saudi Arabia?"

Is it legal for muslims to beat their wives in Saudi Arabia?

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    I've read that it's still legal for men to rape their wives in Saudi Arabia. – Andrew Grimm Sep 12 '12 at 0:18
  • Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/9788/… – Suma Sep 12 '12 at 9:08
  • It's legal in Germany though... – vartec May 21 '13 at 8:58
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    @vartec : It's not legal. One judge made a bad ruling but that ruling was overturned later. The judge didn't even say that beating was legal but that it was no grounds for a more speedy divorce. – Christian Jun 6 '13 at 13:26
  • @AndrewGrimm No, that is the US. – liftarn Mar 28 at 7:40
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Update:

As of this week (written on September 1st, 2013), Domestic Abuse has officially been outlawed in Saudi Arabia.

In a historic move, Saudi Arabia banned domestic abuse this week, outlawing any form of abuse at home or in the workplace.

The Council of Ministers' approval of the law Monday marks the first time the country has officially recognized domestic violence as a punishable crime. Offenders may face up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of 50,000 Saudi riyal (about $13,300), the Saudi Gazette reports.

The law will also provide shelter for victims of abuse and ensure the identities of those who report it are kept confidential.

The legislation makes sexual violence in the home and the workplace a punishable crime. Moreover, it provides for shelter for victims of abuse and places the onus on law enforcement agencies to follow up on reports of abuse. It is backed up by a jail sentence and hefty fines.

Saudi Arabia's cabinet has passed a ban on domestic violence and other forms of abuse against women for the first time in the Kingdom's history.

The cabinet approved the ban on physical or sexual violence earlier this week, which applies both at home or within the work place.

The legislation makes domestic violence a punishable crime for the first time. It also provides treatment and shelter for victims of abuse and holds law enforcement agencies accountable for investigating and prosecuting allegations of abuse.

The ban includes penalties of a maximum12 month jail sentence and fines of up to $13,000.

“All civilian or military employees and all workers in the private sector who learn of a case of abuse — by virtue of their work — shall report the case to their employers when they know it,” Alnbawaba reported the cabinet as saying in a statement. “The employers shall report the case to the Ministry of Social Affairs or police when they know it.”

also: Saudi Gazette

In a video done on this in the Young Turks it's also said that there is an anonymous hot-line, I wasn't able to find it mentioned in other sources.


Partially Outdated Information:

It's legal in Saudi Arabia, but the situation seems to be improving.

According to a source at MSN News which depicts an anti domestic violence campaign:

There are currently no laws in Saudi Arabia that protect domestic violence victims.

Also from this source:

There is not one law in Saudi Arabia that regards violence toward women as an illegal activity

...

In terms of law, there is not one law in Saudi Arabia that regards violence toward women as an illegal activity. As a matter of fact, women in Saudi Arabia are minors under law until their death, making it impossible for a woman to make any decision on her own without the permission of her guardian.

This means that even if a woman is “radical” enough to disobey her guardian or reject his abuse or decisions, she has got nowhere to go. She cannot file a complaint or leave the country or do practically anything without her guardian’s permission, which in most cases, ironically, is the abuser himself.

...

“In May, Jeddah’s Summary Court convicted a man for physically abusing his wife to the point of hospitalization, but sentenced him to learning by heart five parts of the Quran and 100 sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.”

The legal system in Saudi Arabia does not have the sufficient tools and laws that would deter men from domestic violence. In case of drugs and murder, the punishment is death penalty, which makes people think twice before committing such crimes because of the consequences. Yet, when it comes to domestic violence the punishment is learning parts of the Quran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

and just recently a national campaign was started by an NGO of the Royal Family to stop domestic violence.

However, in addition to the cases depicted in @non-Saudi man and @user1873 answers, the King Khalid Foundation started a national campaign in Saudi Arabia aimed at stopping domestic abuse.

Here are sources describing the campaign:

The site of the KKF states:

KKF did a research on “Women and Child Abuse Prevention Law” which has been adopted by the Government of Saudi

Also, a Foreign Policy article on the campaign mentions another recent campaign, the "White Ribbon Campaign" which is part of the global White Ribbon Campaign against domestic violence:

The launch of this initiative is all the more striking considering the start of another campaign that preceded it by just a few days. This is the "White Ribbon campaign," the Saudi version of the international campaign of the same name, which aims to involve men more actively in efforts to stop violence against women.

Considering the events of husbands being criminally prosecuted and punished for domestic abuse do start to happen, and a national campaign by a Royal Family NGO, that claims to affect the government, It can be said that Domestic Violence in Saudi Arabia will, hopefully, be on the decline, and its prosecution on the rise.

  • If something is legal than there no punishment. Even if the punishment is low that's still reflects a sentiment that a illegal act occurs. – Christian Jun 5 '13 at 18:46
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    @Christian something may be legal if done under specific conditions, and carry different penalties if done under specific other conditions. Think driving. If you drive under the speed limit, you're not fined. Break the limit and you get a fine depending on the amount you are over the limit (which might be waived if you have a valid enough reason in some places). Same here, if a Saudi man beats his wife occasionally and doesn't leave bruises or scars, it's legal. If he beats her senseless and she ends in hospital once a week, he's crossing a line and can get arrested. – jwenting Jun 6 '13 at 6:52
  • @jwenting : (1) I understand your point but Ilya post doesn't describe when it's legal and when it's not. It says that there are no laws that specifically target domestic violence and equates that with legality of domestic violence. But that isn't the same in this context. Sometimes people seem to be sentenced under general laws against violence for crimes that would in the West be prosecuted as domestic violence. (2) If the deciding criteria is whether bruises or scars are left it would be good if the answer to this question would document that criteria. – Christian Jun 6 '13 at 12:12
  • @Christian, I'm not a law specialist, and especially not Saudi law specialist. I found sources that claim that there are no laws against this. Maybe the people who were prosecuted were prosecuted on another charge, to "fill up the gap" while laws addressing domestic abuse are prepared, maybe it's a local law and not a country wide law, maybe there are laws but they don't suffice, or not comprehensive enough, the fact is that today's law in Saudi is not to the standard as in the western world, but there seems to be an improvement. – SIMEL Jun 6 '13 at 12:24
  • Of course the absence of laws prohibiting it means it is de facto legal even if there's no legal document that explicitly states so. Ergo, any prosecution would have to prosecute under another law that can with some mind twisting be applied to the situation (like charging the driver of a speeding car with manslaughter because someone was distracted by him and crashed into another car, killing its driver). – jwenting Jun 6 '13 at 13:56
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There is at least one very public case.

Mohammed al-Fallatta had been sentenced to six months and 300 lashes after repeatedly hitting TV presenter Rania al-Baz's head against the floor.

It is quite difficult to find information on this topic. The sources I have found that confirm or deny that you may or may not beat your wife are less than respectable. This single case at least shows that you may not beat your wife severely if she is famous.

  • The page you cited includes, "Her eureka moment came on roughly her 10th reading of the Arabic-English Lexicon by Edward William Lane, a 3,064-page volume from the 19th century, she said. Among the six pages of definitions for daraba was to go away. ''I said to myself, 'Oh, God, that is what the prophet meant,' '' said Ms. Bakhtiar" – ChrisW May 21 '13 at 17:24
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    as I read it (and so do the Muslims I know) the Quran and other Muslim scriptures clearly state you can beat your wife (they even recommend it) but have to "show restraint". In this case, the husband went too far, causing serious injury, serious enough that even the Saudi judiciary agreed he'd overstept his authority over his posession. – jwenting Jun 5 '13 at 11:55
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Yes, if you accept as correct the recent English translation of the Quran. However, one has to keep in mind that translation of 1500 years old Arabic into English is not clear-cut (as outlined by dave) and thus the answer greatly depends on that assumption and the question here.

Even though it seems that the basic laws of Saudi Arabia are unclear about that. The article 7 of the law says that:

Article 7
Government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia derives its authority from the Book of God and the Sunna of the Prophet (PBUH), which are the ultimate sources of reference for this Law and the other laws of the State.

Moreover, article 8 says that:

Article 8
Governance in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on justice, shura (consultation) and equality according to Islamic Sharia.

By searching a little bit deeper, one can read this:

Quran verse 4:34 Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.

So the answer depend on your interpretation of the scripture, but to me it seems an evidence that "strike them" grant that right. However, according to article 10, a man beating his wife should do it by caring for her. Therefore, one could be punished by the law for excessive beating and/or beating without a reason (acceptable by the interpretation of the Quran). That could be an explanation to the case given by @user1873.

Article 10
The State shall aspire to promote family bonds and Arab-Islamic values. It shall take care of all individuals and provide the right conditions for the growth of their talents and skills.

The laws of Saudi Arabia can be found on their USA ambassy website


Stories and other interesting links


Saudi judge says it's ok

The section "Undesirablity of beating" show some sources supporting the claim

ps: It seems to me that a man has the right the beat his women to the same strength factor some parents would do to their children in eastern countries (without harm nor considerable pain) - I don't know if I am using the correct English formulation though, and it might be a dangerous comparison.

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    This is not an answer. There is a big difference between saying that the Quran is the "ultimate source of reference" and saying "anything allowed in the Quran is allowed under this law". As you say, the answer depends on the interpretation of scripture, and we don't know how the Saudi legal system interprets scripture. – DJClayworth Sep 12 '12 at 15:01
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    @DJClayworth I have provided the basic law of Saudi Arabia, there is no better source to confirm or deny the answer to this question. Perhaps I should modify my first answer to reflect the degree on uncertainty about the interpretation. – Zonata Sep 12 '12 at 15:52
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    @DJClayworth Moreover, if the Quran is the ultimate source of reference and the law is unclear about whether one can beat is women or not, an attorney would certainly plead the case with the reference I shown. I will search for example cases to solidify my proof. – Zonata Sep 12 '12 at 15:55
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    It is worth mentioning that the translations from Arabic to English as not clear cut, especially from Arabic that is 1500 years old. Different scholars will translate words and phrases differently. Obviously, there are few 1500 year old fluent Arabic speakers in this forum but you can not always take the translations on face value. – dave Sep 13 '12 at 4:09
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    @AAA Not really in this case. Since it is the ultimate reference, laws cannot go against their Quran interpretation. It is the same for the charter of rights and freedom in Canada. – Zonata May 13 '13 at 15:11
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In this case A husband was sentenced 10 days in prison and 30 lashes just for slapping his wife. The wife is allowed to be present to see his husband go through the punishments.

Manama: A man in Saudi Arabia charged with slapping his wife was sentenced to 10 days in prison and 30 lashes.

The court in Al Qateef in the Eastern Province said that the wife could witness the flogging in retribution for the physical pain her husband caused her, Saudi daily Al Sharq reported on Wednesday.

The husband will also have to take part in special sessions on marriage counseling and on how to treat and deal with spouses, the judge ruled.

According to the court documents, the wife, in her 30s, filed the case after her husband slapped her on the face during an argument.

He admitted the act, arguing that she had been impolite with his relatives, the daily said.

Another source, in Urdu, depicting the same case.

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