Domestic Violence Legislation in Palestine
“Violence against women is perpetrated when legislation, law enforcement and judicial systems condone or do not recognize domestic violence as a crime” (UNICEF Innocent Research Centre , 2000).
Legal System in Palestine
The current legal system in Palestine is comprised of various laws inherited from different legal systems, such as Jordanian, Egyptian, Palestinian, Ottoman and British laws, as well as Israeli military orders. Despite the multiplicity of legal systems, there are gaps in legislation, particularly when it comes to protecting women from violence. For instance, the absence of a family protection law constitutes a critical gap in the current legislation. Moreover, the Article 98 of the Jordanian Penal Code (1960) provides mitigating circumstances for perpetrators of violent acts if they acted in a state of rage. Furthermore, the issue of incest is not always classified as a type of sexual assault. Finally, psychological harassment and verbal violence are not currently criminalized (DCAF, 2012).
Overview of domestic violence figures
According to the Violence Survey in Palestinian Society (2011), 29.9% of ever-married women in the West Bank and 51% in the Gaza Strip have been subjected to a form of violence within the household; with 48.8% of women in the West Bank and 76.4% in the Gaza Strip declaring having been psychologically abused; 17.4% in the West Bank and 34.8% in the Gaza Strip physically abused; and 10.2% in the West Bank and 14.9% in the Gaza Strip sexually abused. The statistics also show that 65.3% of women who were victims of violence by their husbands declared preferring to remain silent; while 30.2% said they had spoken to their family, and 0.7% opted to seek the assistance of an institution or centre (PCBS, 2012). According to the Independent Commission for Human Rights annual report of 2015, 50 women were killed between the years 2010-2015 in the name of so-called family honour (ICHR, 2016).
Domestic violence is connected to negative social norms that justify the use of violent behaviour (WSC WAC, 2012). Gaps in the legal framework reinforce societal acceptance of domestic violence: the majority of perpetrators benefit from pardoning excuses and extenuating reasons based on Articles, 98 and 99 of the Jordanian Penal Code of 1960 that reduce or counter legal recourse (UN OHCHR, 2014).
The Palestinian Government and women’s civil society organizations are working together to respond to the consequences of the legal gaps. They have established some mitigation policies and provide services to survivors including 10 specialized Family Protection Units operating in 10 districts of the West Bank with the specific mandate to protect families, specifically women and children. Moreover, there are currently 4 anti-violence centres/shelters in Palestine (UN Women, n.d). Yet, the work of women’s shelters and their relations with the authorities are not regulated by the law (DCAF, 2012).
- UNICEF Innocent Research Centre (2000), Domestic Violence against Women and Girls, https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/digest6e.pdf
- UN Women (n.d), Facts and Figures: Ending Violence against Women, http://palestine.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures
- UN DAW/DESA (2009), Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/vaw/handbook/Handbook%20for%20legislation%20on%20violence%20against%20women.pdf
- DCAF (2012), Working Paper – Palestinian Women and Security: Promoting the Rights of Palestinian Women and Girls through Legislation, http://www.dcaf.ch/Publications/Working-Paper-Palestinian-Women-and-Security-Promoting-the-Rights-of-Palestinian-Women-and-Girls-through-Legislation
- PCBS (2012), Press Release: Main Findings of Violence survey in the Palestinian Society, http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/Portals/_pcbs/PressRelease/el3onf2011_E.pdf
- ICHR, (2016), The Status of Human Rights in Palestine: 21 Annual Report 2015, http://ichr.ps/en/1/6/1941/ICHR-21st-Annual-Report.htm
- WSC WAC (2012), Palestinian Women in the Cycle of Violence: An analytical study of cases of Palestinian women who suffered from violence and discriminatory policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, http://wsc-pal.org/uploads/Nessaa_En1.pdf
- UN OHCHR (2014), Women′s Human Rights and Justice: Murder of Women in Palestine under the pretext of Honour Legislation and Jurisprudence Analytical Study, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/Executive_summary_study_called_honour_killings_Palestine.pdf
This article is without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.