BAHRAIN's top legal authority has recommended that husbands who force their wives to have sex should not be prosecuted.
It has also suggested husbands and guardians who "reasonably" discipline their wives and daughters should be above the law.
The Supreme Judicial Council made the recommendations to ensure new legislation on domestic disputes does not contradict Sharia (Islamic) principles.
However, the recommendations have yet to be voted on by the Shura Council.
"The Supreme Judicial Council has told us in writing that the law doesn't contradict Sharia and would help protect family members from violence in all its forms," Shura Council woman and child committee vice-chairwoman Dr Jihad Al Fadhel said yesterday.
"However, it has stressed that husbands and guardians should be excluded from criminal punishment if they were reasonably disciplining their wives or daughters.
"It also asked for the removal of an article that criminalises husbands who force their wives to have sex, which is their right, unless the wife is sick."
The Shura Council yesterday approved eight of 21 articles in the new law after suspending talks in January due to disagreements over government definitions of abuse and cruelty.
It also approved the establishment of a family violence directorate to operate counselling centres and shelters for victims of violence.
Councillor and former Health Minister Dr Nada Haffadh suggested the new directorate, which would also be responsible for licensing private shelters and monitoring and inspecting public and private facilities.
The plan, which was accepted by Social Development Minister Dr Fatima Al Balooshi, also envisages granting directorate officials judicial authority - meaning they could take immediate legal action against offenders.
Meanwhile, the Shura Council voted in favour of two urgent amendments that would increase the ministry's duties.
One would oblige ministry officials to follow up and be present at all family violence hearings in courts.
Another tasks the ministry with coming up with indicators and training policemen and societies on sheltering abuse victims.
The law, which was originally proposed by parliament, has already been endorsed by the Cabinet.
Dr Al Balooshi said the bill would bring services provided by the government within a legal framework.
"We have several shelters, family guidance offices and protection centres that need a legal umbrella," she said.
"The ministry is already providing services that are covered by the new bill, but the legal aspect is necessary."