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Women's rights activist on PA TV: Gender-based violence is deeply rooted in Palestinian society, but this is changing

Official PA TV program Good Morning Jerusalem, on "honor killings"

Official PA TV host: "We say that without deterrent laws, when a criminal exploits clause 16 in the [Jordanian] Penal Code of 1960, this means escaping punishment or even a reduced punishment for these crimes [against women]. The reasons that usually reduce [the punishment] and he is released is because of the concept of 'honor killings'– Therefore, this law may have helped increase these numbers [of 'honor killings']." …

Jerusalem activist Fatima Nafea: “The Palestinian penal code, according to the opinion of many people, has not reflected Palestinian culture and Palestinian society since in principle- Excuse me, I said that the Palestinian penal code is implemented in Palestine, but even the Jordanian penal code was amended, even within Jordan itself. But we had to wait for 2017 until a presidential order was issued by [PA] President [Mahmoud Abbas] that revoked the justification for an easement [of punishment for crimes against women]. The law itself is not a justification. We see popular rejection of the idea of murdering women ‘for honor,’ the idea of violence against women, and the idea of suppressing all of the freedom of women or others. However, do the laws express society’s need, and does the existing law that is currently implemented reflect society or not?

One of the things that has been demanded at the protests held in Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Bethlehem is to ratify the ‘Protect the Family from Violence’ law. The ‘Protect the Family from Violence’ law has been debated for almost a decade if I remember correctly. We are now working on a national system of protection regarding the issue of violence. Is the system to protect women who suffer from violence sufficient? This is an existing phenomenon, a phenomenon that exists in a society that suffers from oppression in principle. In order for the laws to be able to provide protection, there must be real implementation tools, and these tools must be distributed everywhere so I can guarantee maximum protection. Now I have stopped saying the law is an excuse for the criminal. For in principle since 2012 or 2014, if memory serves, the clause that provides justification to ease [punishment] in the murder of women ‘for honor’ was revoked by a presidential order. From 2014 until now there is no excuse [for reducing the punishment], but truthfully I have no criteria for checking how effective this law has been in revoking the justification for easing [punishment], because the trial itself takes a long time. The lawsuit goes on for four or five years. I have nothing with which to measure [it].”

Host: “But Fatima, it could be that the amendment or presidential order that amended this law reduced the crime rate. As we mentioned at the beginning of the report, we spoke about 27 cases [of murder] just in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and there are 19 cases in the Gaza Strip. But after the amendment to the law according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights there were 4 murders of women in the occupied Palestinian territories for honor, whereas in June 2019 the center documented 2 cases of murder for honor. This means that the deterrent laws might be reducing the severity of these crimes and that is what we actually pointed out. Perhaps the criminal – allow me to put it colloquially – ‘will think twice’ due to the amendment to the law or the legal order that [allows for] the implementation of steps appropriate to the extent of his crime.”

Fatima Nafea: “Perhaps it will be a very strong aspect. In principle, why is there law? In order to deter anyone who thinks to commit a certain crime. However, in principle, when we speak about the murder of women for honor, we are equating things. We are equating legal deterrence with ‘society’s judgment.’ ‘Society’s judgment’ is a term through which we are describing the thoughts that pass through the mind of a person who commits a crime: What are the social judgments that would apply to him if he committed this crime. Therefore, I reemphasize an idea that in my opinion is very strong: That the laws need to come from society itself… Society itself rejects this (i.e., honor killings). It demands laws that reflect this society. The law is a very important step that must be discussed regarding deterrence, but society itself also serves as a deterrence in such matters.”

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