In Oman, wife abuse, is not visible and issues around its prevalence, people’s attitudes towards it, its causes and effects are unknown because of a lack of research. Resources to assist and support women, children and perpetrators are limited, and education about domestic violence is nonexistent. The aim of this study is to understand the specific cultural context of wife abuse by exploring the attitudes and beliefs of a particular Omani group—first-year male and female university students who are representative of future professionals across a diverse range of educational areas. This study also aims to understand students’ attitudes towards wife abuse by analysing how they explain wife abuse within the Omani and Islamic framework. As such, the proposed study is conceptualised using an Islamic Feminist Theoretical Framework. Islamic Feminist Theory has been used as a lens through which the findings of the present study have been interpreted.
It was proposed that male Omani university students would report significantly more violence condoning attitudes towards married women than female Omani university students; rural Omani university students would report significantly more violence-condoning attitudes towards married women than urban Omani university students; and Omani university students who have negative attitudes towards women would report significantly more violence-condoning attitudes towards married women than Omani university students who have positive attitudes towards women. Using a sequential explanatory mixed method design, 400 students (229 males, 171 females, Mage = 18.50 years, SD = 0.55 years) were recruited to participate in a self-administered survey. Follow-up in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 of these students from Sultan Qaboos University. The first phase was a quantitative approach where a broad survey was used to collect data about students’ attitudes towards wife abuse and wife beating, and students’ attitudes towards women in general. In the second phase, qualitative in-depth interviews with students were used to explore and obtain more detailed information that reflected participants’ perceptions and understandings of wife abuse through their own words and from their own perspectives. This qualitative data was analysed using a thematic analysis drawing out key themes, commonalities and contrasts in students’
attitudes about wife abuse. In the third phase, results from both the quantitative and qualitative approach were integrated.
The quantitative data revealed that age, family background, place of residence, and college attended were not significant factors related to students’ attitudes. College was not a significant factor related to students’ attitudes wife abuse. Place of living, age and parents’ backgrounds were not significant factors related to students’ attitudes. Gender was a significant factor, with male students significantly more likely than female students to support negative attitudes towards women and to have supportive attitudes towards wife abuse and wife beating. Students’ patriarchal and traditional beliefs were the predictors of wife abuse and wife beating.
The qualitative data revealed that, although students were aware that wife abuse was prohibited in Islam, wife abuse exists in Omani society, it is still considered a family problem and it occurs more in urban than in rural settings. It is believed that seeking help from the police would damage the wife’s family’s reputation as it is considered shameful for her to raise her experience of abuse in public. There were contrasting views within students’ attitudes. Although students thought that wife abuse was a family problem, they also suggested that there was a need to start providing different services for women. Providing such services should be done gradually as the community needs to be aware first about wife abuse and that keeping it within the family sphere could make the situation more difficult for women.
The integration of the results from the quantitative and qualitative data showed that there was a contradiction between belief and practice: wife abuse is prohibited, yet people are still practising it. It seems that there were misinterpretations of Ayah in the Qur’an that discuss the issue of power and control as people interpreted it as men having the right to abuse their wives.
Potentially, this research may lead to changes in practice and be the catalyst for further research on this issue in Oman. It is envisaged that this study will have positive implications for counselling and other service development for abused women and children, as the results from both quantitative and qualitative data pointed to the importance of initiating counselling services in Oman.