The advert features a hijab-clad woman – with just her eyes visible through the slits in her veil – one of which is blackened and bloodshot.
The slogan simply reads: “Some things can’t be covered – fighting women’s abuse together.”
The campaign is backed by the King Khalid Charitable Foundation and aims to “provide legal protection for women and children from abuse in Saudi Arabia.”
In literature for the advert, it admits “the phenomenon of battered women in Saudi Arabia is much greater than apparent”, and encourages Saudis to report cases of violence at locations around the Kingdom including Madinah, Najran, Makkah and Riyadh.
The campaign is progress indeed for a country where women are not permitted to drive, and where religious police only recently lifted a ban on females riding motorbikes and bicycles – as long as they wear the full-length veil and are accompanied by a male relative.
The Gulf Kingdom is governed by Sharia law, and it is illegal for Saudi women to travel abroad without male accompaniment. They may only do so if their guardian agrees by signing a document know as a 'yellow sheet' at an airport or border crossing.
It was only in 2011 that women were given the right to vote and run for office in municipal elections in 2015.
The foundation backing the ad was established in 2001 by the family of the late King Khalid, who ruled from 1975 until his death in 1982.
It was, according to Blessed Islam, a “key player in the introduction to the “Women and Child Abuse Prevention Law”, making it the first time legislation developed and proposed by an NGO has been adopted by the Kingdom’s government.
Domestic violence statistics in the country are hazy at best, due to a societal system which accepts the right of the male to govern unconditionally.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report in 2012 ranked Saudi Arabia 131st out of 134 countries for gender equality.
Back in 2008, Jeddah-based psychologist Samira Al-Ghamdi told Arab News: “Society clings to its ways and people refuse to change. Too many people view the efforts to stop abuse of women and children as defiance of social rules that have been established for centuries.”
Here's hoping she’s wrong and that this campaign will smooth the way for positive change.
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