A Question of Security: Violence Against Palestinian Women and Girls: Occupied Palestinian Territories


Deif, Farida, and Lucy Mair. 2006. A Question of Security: Violence Against Palestinian Women and Girls: Occupied Palestinian Territories.18 (7). New York: Human Rights Watch

Authors: Farida Deif, Lucy Mair


All too often, Palestinian women and girls who suffer from family violence pay the price for their abuse. The criminal justice system and health care providers largely ignore these abuses, leaving Palestinian women and girls with little protection. Inadequate and discriminatory laws condone the violence and perpetuate a situation of virtual impunity for perpetrators. Most women and girls consider it futile to pursue justice for family violence. Those who do report abuse confront authorities that prioritize the need to avoid public “scandal” and maintain the reputation of the victim’s family over her own health and life.

A Question of Security reveals, through survivors’ testimony, serious shortcomings in the Palestinian Authority’s response to family violence. There is no legislation outlawing domestic violence. Marital rape is not a crime under penal codes in force in the West Bank and Gaza. Only male relatives can file incest charges on behalf of minors. Rapists who agree to marry their victim are exonerated from punishment. Courts apply laws providing a reduction in sentence for murders committed in a “fit of fury” even in clearly premeditated cases involving “honor” crimes. The government poorly enforces laws that do penalize violence, due in part to police and doctors lacking the training, expertise and will to take family violence seriously. While the West Bank has a few small domestic violence shelters, they are not accessible to all women. Gaza lacks any women’s shelter for victims of violence.

There is no question that the Palestinian Authority faces daunting economic, political and security challenges, at this particular juncture, that hinder its response to all social and criminal justice problems. Yet despite these challenges, the Palestinian Authority has built important new institutions and reformed and unified some laws, such as those governing the justice system and children’s rights. Now the same must be done to protect women and girls from family violence.

There are measures—even in this difficult climate—that the Palestinian Authority can take to combat family violence. This report calls on the Palestinian Authority to establish guidelines and policies for responding to family violence, in line with international standards, and to train government employees to respond appropriately to violence. The Palestinian Authority should also enact a specific law on domestic violence and repeal the discriminatory laws that hinder efforts to tackle family violence.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender-Based Violence, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Security Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories

Year: 2006

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