How Social Workers and Other Stakeholders Perceive the Marriage of Women of Normal Intelligence to Men with Intellectual Disabilities

Asmaa Abu Alaola, Supervisor: Dr. Ronnie Strier, University of Haifa, 2015

Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Master's degree

This work was supported by a grant from Shalem Fund

In recent years, there have been many discussions among policy makers, social service professionals and academics on the issues and rights of marriage amongst people with intellectual disabilities. These discussions focused almost exclusively on marriages where both spouses are with intellectual disabilities, and ignored the fact that some marriages are mixed and with one partner with normal intelligence . This pioneering study conducted in the Arab-Muslim society in Israel researches the motives and context of women marrying a husband with an intellectual disability .
The marriage of women of normal intelligence to mentally impaired men is a comparatively common phenomenon in traditional Arab society in Israel. An earlier exploratory study examining these women's perceptions of the phenomenon (Aziri-Zidan, 2008) found that they regarded their decision to marry these men both as an expression of the social subjugation and as an expression of their part in quest for freedom of unmarried women in traditional Arab society, thus perceiving their condition as a means for achieving autonomy without overstepping the normative boundaries of gender and religion in their society .

This study inquired into how social workers and other stakeholders within the community perceive the phenomenon. The findings are presented in five main themes: the characteristics of this problematic marital model; its roots and reasons; prevailing attitudes of the interviewees; the role of the welfare services; recommendations for dealing with the issue. The findings provide several complementary insights into the phenomenon, suggesting an alternative interpretation of this model of marriage.
The overriding goal of the study aims to deepen awareness about this phenomenon and to expand the basis of the existing knowledge, as well examination of the institutional and legal system and its ability to protect people both women and people with intellectual disabilities within the Arab-Muslim minority in Israel. 

A video describing the research, Editor : Shay Shlomy, 2015


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