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Could This Campaign End Domestic Violence In Saudi Arabia?

A social media campaign launched in Saudi Arabia has hit the inter-webs with a bam this week. It dares men to "Hit Her" with powerful images and words to illustrate the consequences of domestic violence. There's been a considerable positive response to the campaign, and it has mostly come from men. The campaign urges users to use the #?????? hashtag which means "hit her." Twitter is filled with positive reactions from men like these ones gathered and translated by Al Jazeera.

It's a well known fact that Saudi's record on women's rights is stupefyingly abysmal. The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap report in 2009 placed the country in 130th place (out of 134 nations) when it comes to gender parity. Although women have "earned" the right to ride bikes and vote in elections, they still cannot drive or even travel without the permission of a male guardian. In fact, Saudi has set-up a tracking system that alerts men with a text message when their wife has left the country.

It's no surprise that a deeply misogynistic culture translates into high levels of domestic violence for Saudi women. According to Saudi reporter Samar Fatany, who cites studies from The National Family Safety Program, one in six women experience emotional, verbal or physical violence every single day. More than 90% of this abuse is propagated by their husbands and relatives.

Last month, the first anti-domestic violence campaign entitled "No More Abuse" was launched by the King Khalid Foundation. It went viral all over the world, and it was seen by millions, but did it spread in Saudi Arabia as well? The amount of women who were exposed to the campaign is still unclear.

As  point out in her piece in the Guardian, domestic violence campaigns won't work unless women can actually can see them. Since the internet is largely under government control in Saudi Arabia and that women's lives are so cripplingly controlled by their male guardians, what guarantees that they are even aware of this campaign's existence?

"There is no manliness in violence. I salute your manhood"

Translated by Al Jazeera via @Aseel_Ali

Then again, why are we assuming that domestic violence campaigns should be aimed at women? Although gender-based violence is often perceived as a "women's issue" the vast majority of domestic violence abusers are men. Reliable data from Scotland finds that 90% of perpetrators of domestic violence are men. So why is this a woman's problem again?

It's encouraging to see men responding to this Saudi campaign with openness. They have the power to end domestic violence and campaigns should be primarily aimed at changing men's attitudes and behaviors. Sure, telling women that they should leave men who hit them can be effective, but targeting men could prevent that violence from happening in the first place.

For more on gender, violence and social media, follow me on Twitter: @feministabulous

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