In 2013, 26 women were killed in the West Bank and Gaza by their relatives. This number is double the number of Palestinian women killed in 2012. These so-called ‘honor killings’ are perpetrated by male family members who kill a female family member who is suspected of shaming the family. Human rights activists are calling for a change in the law saying that killing for family honor is just a socially acceptable form of violence against women.
The rise in the killings is attributed to tough economic times and a historical leniency when facing punishment for these crimes. Poverty in Palestine has also been on the rise in the last few years. Pressure has been put on Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to repeal sections of laws on the books that allow for short sentences for the perpetrators of honor killings. Many times, perpetrators only face a couple of years at maximum.
Reasons for honor killings vary. One woman was killed by her father for allegedly using a cell phone to talk to a man. Another woman was killed by her brother while praying who later claimed that he acted to preserve the honor of his family. People who claim that they killed to preserve honor are almost always treated less harshly than they would be otherwise.
Former legislator Hanan Ashrawi has repeated called on Abbas to repeal sections of laws that discriminate against women but hasn’t gained much ground. She placed blame on male politicians who put women’s issues on the back burner in favor of other issues they deem more pressing, such as establishing the state of Palestine and ending the Israeli occupation. “We are fighting for freedom and human dignity,” she said. “How can you deprive women of all these things?”
– Colleen Eckvahl
Sources: The Washington Post, Haaretz