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100% rise in Palestinian "family honor" killings

Written by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

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PA law protects murderers of women and girls killed for so-called "family honor"

Abbas has repeatedly pledged to change the leniency clause for "family honor" killings in PA law

Abbas has still not fulfilled his promise and "honor killings" have doubled

PLO Executive Committee member Ashrawi: Claiming such crimes are due to "family honor" is an "excuse"

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

According to a senior official in the PA Ministry of Women's Affairs, there has been a 100% rise in the number of Palestinian women murdered in the name of "family honor." The official also complained that PA leader Abbas has not fulfilled his pledge to change PA law, which currently protects the murderers of women who were killed because of so-called "family honor":

"Director of Coordination in the Ministry of Women's Affairs Nabila Rizq revealed that the number of women who were murdered in 2013 in Palestine due to 'family honor' rose to 27, compared to 13 women murdered in 2012... Rizq said the loophole in the penal code -- specifically the extenuating circumstances and circumstances which permit [murder] -- gives the criminal an excuse to commit his crime, and she asserted that three years ago a demand was submitted to President Mahmoud Abbas to remove this clause because it exempts the criminal from punishment." 

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 3, 2014]

PA law follows the clauses in Jordanian law that are lenient toward perpetrators of crimes such as "honor killings." According to Article 98 of Jordanian Penal Act 16, perpetrators "shall be liable to a lesser penalty" for crimes committed in "a state of great anger" in response to "a wrongful and dangerous act on the part of the victim" (an act which the law leaves undefined). Article 340 states that someone who "surprises his wife or one of his ascendants or descendants in the crime of adultery" "shall benefit from the mitigating excuse". ['Honour': Crimes, Paradigms and Violence Against Women; Eds. Sara Hossain, Lynn Welchman; Zed Books Ltd.; 2005]

For three years Abbas has been promising to change these laws that are lenient to murderers of women.

Palestinian Media Watch reported in 2011 and 2012 on demands from within PA society that the laws be changed and on Abbas' promises to do so. However, despite his promises, Abbas has failed to bring about change.

Abbas' unfulfilled pledges to protect women, in 2011 and 2012:

  In 2011:"Women's organizations, human rights organizations, workers' unions, the political factions and the various social organizations in the Hebron district have hailed the President's [Abbas'] decision to instruct the legal advisor to the Presidential Office to amend sections 340 and 98 of the Jordanian Penal Act 16 of 1960, which allows those who have carried out crimes of murdering women in so-called honor killings to escape justice..." 

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 15, 2011]

In 2012: "President Abbas decided yesterday to appoint a legal committee, made up of his legal advisor, Hassan Al-Awri, and the Minister of Justice, Ali Mahana, to examine the law of personal status and others. This in order to improve the laws and amend them, so Palestinian women's rights will be protected and defend them from oppression, violence, and discrimination. The president's decision comes following the increase in attacks and cases of murder of women." 

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 10, 2012] 

Member of the PLO Executive Committee Hanan Ashrawi repeated the call to change the PA law and put an end to "extenuating circumstances for murder of women." Ashrawi called on all political, governmental and media frameworks to "stand up against this phenomenon and eradicate it once and for all" and to stop treating such crimes as "family matters" of "family honor," which she described as an "excuse":

"Women are not a symbol of men's or families' honor, but are an equal member [of society], like all other individuals in society. Categorizing these dangerous crimes under misleading titles is an exploitation that provides cover and protection for those who carry out these crimes and encourages them to carry out additional attacks and crimes against women." 

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 23, 2014]

In addition, the official PA daily reported that some of those murdered women whose relatives claimed were killed because of "family honor" were actually killed because the women were trying to get their proper inheritance, based on a new PA law. Family members had in fact killed them for financial profit:

"[There] are signs of increasing awareness among women about demanding their right of inheritance. This [is happening] even if this demand may encounter many obstacles [caused] by [their] brothers and family, [obstacles] which may even sometimes result in murder, and recording it [the murder] as if it was committed as a family honor [killing]..." 

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 3, 2014]

As stated, in spite of Abbas' pledges, PA law still grants the above cited clemency for the "family honor" killings in 2014.

Click to see more on the subject of women in PA society

The following are longer excerpts of the reports on honor killings in the official PA daily:

"PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi asserted that we must hurry and urgently approve the penal code, dismiss all extenuating circumstances for murder of women, approve a series of legislation concerning the security of society, and specifically the security of women, as well as give maximum sentences to the perpetrators and to anyone who violates provisions of the law.

These words were said as she strongly condemned the murder of a 15-year-old from Jabalia by her father and the murder of another young woman, a 17-year-old from Khan Yunis, by her brother, [both of which happened] in one day.

Ashrawi noted that the number of women who were murdered since the beginning of 2013 and up to December of that year reached 28 victims because of a lack of regulations and laws to guarantee social protection for women, the lack of legal accountability, laxity in pursuing perpetrators, as well as a lack of desire to punish them.

She added: 'It's time to implement the necessary amendments to the law, approve a penal code that dissuades [people from committing the crimes and that will] view these crimes as crimes against humanity, to activate methods for implementing the law and to urge the legal system to assume its responsibility.'

Ashrawi denounced the fact that these crimes are called murder for 'family matters,' or what are called 'honor' killings, and described this as an 'excuse.' In addition, she said: 'Women are not a symbol of men's or families' honor, but are an equal member [of society], like all other individuals in society. Categorizing these dangerous crimes under misleading titles is an exploitation that provides cover and protection for those who carry out these crimes, and encourages them to carry out additional attacks and crimes against women. Furthermore, it reinforces the policy of escaping punishment and contributes to evading the necessary commitments for opposing it.'

Ashrawi called on all parts of the Executive Authority, civil society and [on] political, governmental, popular, feminist and media frameworks, as well as the legal and the defense systems, to stand up against this phenomenon and eradicate it once and for all.

She added: 'All elements of society must face their social and national responsibility and oppose these dark acts that harm Palestinian society as a whole, and [harm] the components of the future democratic Palestinian state, its principles and status.'"

 [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 23, 2014]

"Director of Coordination in the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Nabila Rizq revealed that the number of women who were murdered in 2013 in Palestine due to 'family honor' rose to 27, compared to 13 women murdered in 2012... Rizq said the loophole in the penal code -- specifically the extenuating circumstances and circumstances which permit [murder] -- gives the criminal an excuse to commit his crime, and she asserted that three years ago a demand was submitted to President Mahmoud Abbas to remove this clause because it exempts the criminal from punishment. Rizq deplored the escalation of violence against women, which currently poses a dangerous threat to our society."

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 3, 2014]

"[There] are signs of increasing awareness among women about demanding their right of inheritance. This [is happening] even if this demand may encounter many obstacles [caused] by [their] brothers and family, [obstacles] which may even sometimes result in murder, and recording it [the murder] as if it was committed as a family honor [killing] or by an anonymous person... Nasreen Qawas, coordinator of the 'Right of Inheritance' project, told Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: '... Some of the women grapple with many difficulties with their brothers or families, [difficulties] which have at times resulted in murder due to greed.'"

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 3, 2014

© Palestinian Media Watch – www.palwatch.org

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