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58 Palestinian women murdered in domestic violence in 2 years; PA blamed for not ratifying law to protect them

Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |
  • “The women in our society are still being subjected to murder and violence… A chronic illness” – official PA daily

  • “In the absence of the law to defend the family against violence, the men of the family will continue to do as they please with the women” – Palestinian NGO

  • “The increase in the murder of women in Palestinian society under different circumstances and unjustified and illogical excuses indicates the exacerbation of fundamentalism and social seclusion” – Palestinian NGO

Palestinian women’s rights organizations blame PA inaction in passing a law to defend women from domestic violence as the reason murder of Palestinian women in domestic violence is increasing.

According to the independent Palestinian NGO, the Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), over a two-year period (2019-2020), 58 Palestinian women and young women were murdered in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem. In 2019, 21 cases were documented – a number that rose to 37 cases in 2020.

Palestinian NGOs fighting for women’s rights are calling on the PA to finally ratify the laws that will protect women and limit domestic violence:

“Member of the Board of Directors of the Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO) and Secretary of the Women’s Activity Committees Association in Nablus Sana’a Shbeita emphasized that… ‘The laws… increase the consciousness in society regarding rights, and also constitute a deterrent and bring about security and stability. Therefore, ratifying the law to defend the family against violence will limit the violence against women and will thus protect them from the danger of murder.’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 3, 2021]

“The absence of a defense mechanism for the women” and “the patriarchal culture that gives men custody over the women and young women” were cited by Tahrir Al-A’araj, Director-General of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy “Miftah,” as the main reasons for continued violence against and murder of Palestinian women. She foresees that “in the absence of the law to defend the family against violence, the men of the family will continue to do as they please with the women.”

Another representative from the same NGO interpreted the rise in murders of women as a sign of the “exacerbation of fundamentalism,” and implied the moral failure of the PA as a “state that aspires to lay the foundations for the rule of law and proper governance”:

“The increase in the murder of women in Palestinian society under different circumstances and unjustified and illogical excuses indicates the exacerbation of fundamentalism and social seclusion… The law is the legal tool to deal with an attacker or abuser in a state that aspires to lay the foundations for the rule of law and proper governance, and ratifying laws, including the law to defend the family against violence, is what will strengthen the achievement of justice and security for the weak sectors of society, including women and young women.’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 3, 2021]

Palestinian Media Watch has previously reported on honor killings and domestic violence in the PA. Although focus on these problems has increased in the PA over the last few years, the one thing that could make a difference - tougher legislation – has not been taken on by the PA. On the contrary, PMW has shown that it is the PA itself and often its religious representatives who keep things at a standstill by for example telling women not to submit complaints over their spouses to Israeli police, and justify that men beat their wives.

Speaking in 2019 - during the period of the WCLAC survey - a lecturer at the Bir Zeit University also cited “the social culture and the domination of a male-patriarchal culture” and the “lack of defined and detailed deterrent laws” as some of the reasons for violence against women in the PA. Other experts on the same program explained that the concept of “marital rape” is not even recognized in Palestinian culture because women’s bodies are “a right permitted to the man”:

[Official PA TV, Gently, Nov. 20, 2019]

The Palestinian Human Rights and Democracy Center "SHAMS" also explained in 2019 that the male culture grants men the status of moral guardians who can do as they please:

"Women remain the most prominent victims of the male culture and of the violence that grows out of it, while this culture elevates men beyond the culture of shame, appoints them the masters and guardians of morality - even when they act immorally - and grants them complete immunity. Reducing a woman's honor to her hymen indicates a superficial and uncivilized mentality that stems from viewing women as bodies and private property."

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 2, 2019]

It should be noted that in the PA with a nonfunctioning government and parliament all that would be necessary to enact the law protecting women which has been under discussion for years would be a statement by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. His refusal to do so may be an indication of the social pressures in Palestinian society against changing the status quo of male dominance over women.

The following is a longer excerpt of the article on the new report on murder of Palestinian women cited above:

Headline: “Violence leads to murder – 58 cases in two years
They treat the women’s lives as they please and spill their blood, and the victims are entire families under the powerlessness of the law”

“Despite all the efforts at all levels, and despite the ongoing work by institutions, figures, and media and social influencers, the women in our society are still being subjected to murder and violence. Every time a case of murder occurs whose victim is a woman in her youth, the criminal remains free without giving an accounting, and these cases indicate a chronic illness from which we are suffering, which is accompanied by violence and ignorance.

Recently, the [independent Palestinian] Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), one of the institutions dealing with monitoring issues and affairs of the Palestinian women, published a report that shed light on the phenomenon of women being murdered between the years 2019-2020…

According to the information presented by the WCLAC, 58 cases were documented of Palestinian women and young women being murdered during the last two years of 2019-2020 in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem, which were divided into 21 cases in 2019 as opposed to 37 cases in 2020…

The severity of the phenomenon lies in the general trend of an increase in the rates of murder of women and young women in all areas, as at the time when an increase took place in the cases of murder of women and young women – 25 cases in the Gaza Strip and 33 in the West Bank – a significant increase also took place in the cases of murder in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 2020 as opposed to 2019…

Member of the Civil Organizations Network’s Board of Directors and Secretary of the Women’s Activity Committees Association in Nablus Sana’a Shbeita emphasized that… ‘The laws play a central role in protecting the social sectors, the individual, his possessions, and his beliefs, and particularly the women. The laws also increase the consciousness in society regarding rights, and also constitute a deterrent and bring about security and stability. Therefore, ratifying the law to defend the family against violence will limit the violence against women and will thus protect them from the danger of murder.’ …

In the same context, [Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy] Miftah institution Director-General Tahrir Al-A’araj emphasized that ‘One of the main reasons for violence against women, which is violence that leads to murder in most of the cases, is the absence of a defense mechanism for the women that constitutes a continuation of the violence against women in the private space, which is connected to the mechanism of the patriarchal culture that gives men custody over the women and young women in this space. Therefore, in the absence of the law to defend the family against violence, the men of the family will continue to do as they please with the women.’ …

Miftah Director of Projects Najwa Sandouqa said that ‘The increase in the murder of women in Palestinian society under different circumstances and unjustified and illogical excuses indicates the exacerbation of fundamentalism and social seclusion… The law is the legal tool to deal with an attacker or abuser in a state that aspires to lay the foundations for the rule of law and proper governance, and ratifying laws, including the law to defend the family against violence, is what will strengthen the achievement of justice and security for the weak sectors of society, including women and young women.’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 3, 2021]