Palestinians protest violence against women

Today is the UN-designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. November 25 was chosen to commemorate the Mirabal sisters, three political activists whom Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered brutally assassinated in 1960. Recently, hundreds of Bethlehem-area women marched to protest so-called “honor killings” and other forms of violence against women. Here, several NGOs and Palestine-based journalists help to provide vital context regarding the forms of violence faced by Palestinian women.

The Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy posted these global statistics on their blog today:

  • Up to 70 per cent of women experience violence in their lifetime.

  • Between 500,000 to 2 million people are trafficked annually into situations including prostitution, forced labour, slavery or servitude, according to estimates. Women and girls account for about 80 per cent of the detected victims.

  • It is estimated that more than 130 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation or cutting, mainly in Africa and some Middle Eastern countries.

  • Violence affects an estimated one in three women in her lifetime.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 37% of Palestinian women experienced some form of violence by their husbands in 2011.

In addition to direct violence committed by Israeli forces against Palestinian women, economic pressure due to the occupation is one reason for high levels of domestic abuse.Al-Haq released a statement earlier this year declaring that:

The phenomenon of violence against women is a severe human rights violation and precludes women from playing a central role in society. In addition, the difficult socio-economic conditions, a result of Israel’s ongoing occupation, have contributed to increasing levels of violence against Palestinian women in the private sphere. Al-Haq firmly condemns all violations of women’s rights by Israel and any act of violence perpetrated by the Israeli military against Palestinian women.

In an earlier statement, Al-Haq also declares:

Al-Haq is equally mindful of failures by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in respect of protecting and promoting women’s rights. The legislative and institutional framework recognising and enforcing the equal status of women in the enjoyment of all rights must integrate all relevant international human rights standards, especially those relating to non-discrimination.

After a Bethlehem woman was murdered in 2012, Jillian Kestler-D’Amours reported that despite attempts to amend archaic Jordanian and British Mandatory-era laws, impunity in such cases remains a problem:

 [V]arious human rights groups have pointed to the fact that the PA left other tenets of the law in place, which allow for violence against women to continue unpunished. Articles 97, 98, 99, and 100 of the Jordanian penal code deal with mitigating circumstances can be used to justify “honor killings,” — Article 98 allows perpetrators to avoid punishment if they can prove that they acted in a “state of rage.”

Journalist Amira Hass of Haaretz recently highlighted the work of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC), specifically addressing the phenomenon of so-called “honor killings”:

When a woman is murdered, people immediately ask “what did she do,” said an activist with the organization. “They don’t ask that when a man is murdered.” The center refuses to use the term “honor killing” or “family honor killing,” generally referring to the murder of a woman blamed for sexual conduct contrary to social codes. Attorney Latifa Swekhell and Nabeel Dweikat of the center say the murderer, or whoever is behind the murder, often use the term to cover up the real motive. This could be an inheritance dispute, or a bid to conceal the fact that the perpetrators (sometimes the victim’s father or brother) had raped the woman and this fact became known after she became pregnant or was about to be married. In some cases malicious rumors about a woman, or her refusal to marry the man her family chose for her, are sufficient motive for murder.

The name for such murders is femicide – the killing of women by men for being women, center activists say. These murders are motivated directly or indirectly by misogynist and sexist motives and stem from women’s inequality in patriarchal society, where they are seen as the man and family’s property.

A link to the article can be found here.