Palestinian ‘honour killings’ are rising!
Sisters of Palestinian Aya Baradia, 21, who was a victim of honour killing, mourn next to the water well where her uncle threw her in the village of Surif near the West Bank city of Heron on May 21, 2011. – AFP
Gaza City, Palestine – Two teenage Palestinian girls were killed in separate incidents last month in so-called “honour killings”, revenge attacks carried out most often by family members against women suspected of “immoral sexual conduct”.
The deaths sparked protests with more than 100 people assembling outside the general attorney’s office in Gaza on March 3, demanding violence against Palestinian women come to a halt. Five women died in honour killings in the Palestinian territories in 2011. That number rose to 13 in 2012 and doubled to 26 last year.
“For the past three years, the number of women killed have increased each year,” said Mariam Abu al-Atta, coordinator of the Amal Coalition to Combat Violence Against Women, at the recent demonstration. “Today we are here to stop these crimes. Criminals should be punished by law.”
But the day after the protest, another woman, Samah Bader, was stabbed to death by her husband in their apartment in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. She became the eighth woman killed in the Palestinian territories since the beginning of the year – raising concerns the deadly trend will continue to spiral upwards.
Honour killings are common in some Arab, South Asian and African societies, as unsupervised contact between an unmarried woman and a man can lead to social stigma on the family.
‘Atmosphere of sympathy’
Naser al-Rayyes, a legal consultant at the Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq, estimated that 90 percent of honour killings are in fact carried out for reasons other than “dishonouring” the family, with the assailants aware that courts are more lenient when sexual misconduct is cited as a motive.
|“With the political split, you don’t have anyone in the Gaza Strip aiming to criminalise these offenses.”- Hiba Zayyan, UN Women
“It is to create an atmosphere of sympathy for the murderer and his family to mitigate the sentence,”
Al Haq has long pushed for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to ratify a new penal code that eliminates “family honour” as a mitigating circumstance, and instead mandates harsher sentences in cases in which it is claimed as the motive. Most of those convicted spend only a few years in jail.
The draft law was presented to Abbas in 2011 but still has not been passed.
Reacting to the recent killings of women, PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi called upon the judiciary, security forces and grassroots organisations to “eradicate this phenomenon in line with the principles of democracy”.
But even if Abbas signs the new law, it won’t help women in the Gaza Strip. Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2007, while Fatah remains in charge in the West Bank.
As a result, the two Palestinian territories have different legal systems which, according to Atta, creates an environment where it is impossible to implement one clear law. “We have to unite our voices towards both Hamas and Fatah to end the separation and put one law in force and take action against criminals,” she said.
Hiba Zayyan, of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, said the lack of legal clarity is a major reason for the increase in the killing of women.
“With the political split, you don’t have anyone in the Gaza Strip aiming to criminalise these offences or even to send an ethical, moral message – even if it is not put into effect. There is a complete silence from [Hamas] government institutions,”.
“It is very much connected to law and order – how people perceive the strength of duty-bearers and how they would feel about being punished or getting away with a crime.”
General violence against women (with honor excuse)
“Is there any difference between “family honor” and the “honor” of a spurned beau?
Not really. In both cases, men decide that when they are embarrassed by a woman for whatever reason, she must be killed. Saying it is to defend “honor” is a deflection, but one that gullible observers swallow.”
When you start to see women as objects every reason is valid to murder…
Minas Qasim, 21, chokied to death by her “boyfriend” because her family rejected his marriage proposal.
Israeli police on Wednesday identified a 19-year-old Palestinian as the main suspect in the murder of a woman from Jerusalem.
Police spokeswoman Luba al-Samari said 19-year-old Mohammad Shweiki was suspected of choking Minas Qasim to death because her family rejected his marriage proposal.
The body of Qasim, 21, was found near a dump in East Jerusalem’s al-Eizariya area on May 6, three days after she disappeared on her way home from work. An autopsy revealed the cause of death as strangling.
Police found Qasim’s belongings at the suspect’s home, including a necklace and her mobile phone, al-Samari said in a statement.
When Umm Mohammed was 36, her husband divorced her after beating her badly. She was forced to leave the children behind because she was afraid and unaware of where to turn for help, she said.
Today she works with a women’s rights centre, where she helps wives caught in abusive marriages to try and get divorced. “It’s a man’s society,” she said. “I tell them you have to be stronger than anything.”
After her divorce, Umm Mohammed moved in with her brother and sister-in-law, who tried to stop her from continuing her education or working, and forbade her from going anywhere on her own. She was able to move freely only after she moved in with her son and daughter-in-law.
Women in Gaza are extremely dependent on their family and husbands, Zayyan, of the UN, said – preventing many from leaving an abusive or bad marriage.
“They face the possibility of losing their children, their property and their economic security within the domestic sphere. And then there’s the social stigma. A divorced woman would start to become censored by her immediate family.”
Zayyan said she hopes for more initiatives from government and civil society to support women seeking help – before it is too late.