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Though short of funds, governments are enacting new anti-domestic violence laws and more men are jumping on the bandwagon.
In 2008, Ban launched the "UNITE-to end violence against women" campaign that runs till 2015, which is also the world’s deadline to meet the Millennium Development Goals that includes gender equality and maternal health.
Countries have responded to this campaign by enacting several laws to beef up protection. Australia announced that all domestic violence-related deaths would be examined by an expert panel chaired by the State Coroner.
This summer, the French maybe the first to enact a law against “psychological violence” within marriage, which can get the husband or wife into jail even for repeatedly insulting each other. Despite much controversy, the U.K. is pushing ahead with a change in curriculum to teach primary school children about domestic violence from 2011 onwards.
The abuse is taking a heavy toll not only on the victims but also on the state coffers. The cost of domestic violence in Australia was estimated at $8.1 billion in 2002-03 and in the U.S. exceeds $5.8 billion per year.
At the same time, programs to combat the problem remain grossly under-funded. In 2009, the U.N. received grant requests totaling $857 million but could only provide 1.2 percent of the amount in the form of $10.5 million to fund 13 projects preventing violence — mostly in Africa.
Another Muslim who teaches political science at the Georgia Perimeter College, Shyam Sriram, is putting up a solo fight against domestic violence and paying for it himself. The recent convert from Hinduism, insists that the culture of violence among Muslim men has led to the misconception that Islam sanctions it.
“This is not religious,” said Sriram who travels around the country speaking out against domestic violence in universities and Muslim organizations. The activist believes that the message will hit home when delivered by another man. “Using gender to enhance the dialogue is not sexism,” he said. “Men have to hold other men accountable.”
But at the same time, for many Muslims, the lines between religion and culture are blurred by their religious leaders. Pundits on television channels in the Middle East openly preach that Islamic law allows wife beating but the beater still needs to follow some rules.
One cleric in Lebanon, for instance, notes that hitting a woman or an animal in the face is both wrong and instead recommends light beating.
Even in Afghanistan, more men have come forward to support women's rights in areas that have pushed past the Taliban rules, according to Shukira Asil, a political activist in Baghlan province. “It varies from place to place but there are some men who are aware of the situation and want to collaborate with us,” she said.
In the past few years, anti-domestic violence groups serving the South Asian community in the U.S. have also recorded a relatively higher number of calls from brothers, parents and friends who call to seek help on behalf of the victim.
One father even traveled from India to protect his battered daughter and spoke out in public against the abuse, according to the Maneesha Kelkar, the head of Manavi, an anti-domestic violence group in New Jersey. “Men can be excellent partners,” she said.
Betwa Sharma is the New York/United Nations correspondent for the Press Trust of India and is a freelance journalist.