Palestinian women protest

Palestinian women’s rights groups are outraged that rapists and murderers of women receive reduced sentences.

Palestinian women’s rights groups are demanding the revocation of an article of Palestinian Authority (PA) law that they say allows criminals to get away with murder.

According to Article 99 of Penal Law No. 16 of 1960, the family of a murder victim is permitted to “waive its personal right” to justice and forgive the crime. In such cases, the length and severity of punishment is significantly reduced.

However, given that the vast majority of violence against Palestinian women is domestic, the family of the murder victim is often the family of the murderer as well. Thus, the Palestinian Director of the Women’s Courts Project in the TAM organization Victoria Shukri explained, “In 95% of the murders of women in Palestine, the [victim’s] personal right is waived.”

Shukri is organizing a petition to PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, demanding that he revoke Article 99. Shukri gave an example of how the law is misused:

“A man who murdered his wife in one of the Palestinian cities is released after two and a half years? Why? Because his [the murderers] family waived the [wife’s] personal right after he was sentenced to 15 years.” [Ma’an, independent Palestinian news agency, March 7, 2017]

Furthermore, the excuse of “honor” killing is often abused in order to gain clemency from the family. As Shukri explained, “Many of the murders in Palestine that were perpetrated due to inheritance or political arguments are altered to cases of ‘honor’ in order to reduce the punishment.”

Ma’an further cited a case from last October in which a PA court in Ramallah sentenced a rapist to only a year and a half of manual labor. According to Law clause 296 of [Palestinian] Penal Law No. 16 of 1960, a rapist should receive a minimum of four years imprisonment at hard labor. The Ramallah court only sentenced him to three years, and when the family of the rape victim decided to waive its personal right, his sentenced was reduced by half. Furthermore, the court deducted the time he had already spent in detention awaiting trial from his punishment. In total, the rapist will serve only one year of punishment.

Palestinian Media Watch reported on upsurges in Palestinian “honor killings” in 2012 and 2014. According to the official PA daily, 53% of Palestinian women have suffered from violence. In 45.9% of the cases, the violence was perpetrated by the victim’s father, while in 25.5% of the cases it was perpetrated by her brother.  [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 28, 2014].

Yusuf Jabareen, an Israeli Arab lecturer, acknowledged on PA (June 24, 2012): “Part of our identity is to kill women, to beat women… Part of our identity is to attack women – we must acknowledge it. Every society has its defects and its charms. Palestinian identity has its charms, but there are things that we have adopted from Arab culture for centuries, which harm the individual and the woman. For example, in recent months, look how many women were murdered in Lod, in Ramle, and in Acre, and so on. That’s part of our identity.”

In 2015, Abbas amended PA law to make the punishment for honor killings identical to that of murder. However, proponents of Palestinian women’s rights say that more needs to be done to afford women security from male violence.

By: Itamar Marcus and Yocheved T. Kolchin, Palestinian Media Watch

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