USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

Violence against women rises in Occupied Territories

Posted by uscsjp on March 8, 2007

Palestinian women can be murdered for having sex before or outside marriage under the guise of ‘family honour’. (Tom Spender/IRIN)

RAMALLAH, 7 March 2007 (IRIN) – Three Palestinian women were shot dead in the northern Gaza Strip last month – rumours say it had to do with ‘honour’.

The corpses of the women – Ibtisam Mohammad Musallam Abu Qeinas, 31; Samira Tahani Debeiky, 45; and Amani Khamis Hosari, 40 – were found within a 24-hour period in Beit Lahiya and Gaza City, leaving residents shocked.

“People are saying it was an honour killing, that the women were of loose morals. They were not related to one another – but they were all killed in the same way. It’s really shocking,” said Mona Shawa, director of the women’s unit at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza.

So-called honour crimes are the murders of women who are thought to have brought shame on their families by, for example, having sex before marriage or even for having been the victim of rape or incest.

In 2006, 17 Palestinian women were reported killed in so-called honour crimes – 12 in the Gaza Strip and five in the West Bank.

“The general atmosphere here in Gaza is encouraging this – there is no respect for law, no punishment of criminals and everyone has a gun,” Shawa added.

Soraida Abed Hussein, a researcher at the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) in Ramallah, uses the word ‘femicide’ to describe honour killings.

She says Palestinian society is undergoing radical change as a result of the daily violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and women are suffering as a result.

“Being under oppressive occupation gives you a feeling of low self-esteem, of being less intelligent, less powerful, less of everything,” she said.

Radically changing society

“That hits the masculine identity – and women pay the price. Men internalise the values of violence. They replicate the roles of occupier and victim. It will become part of the culture – part of how you see people and they see you. We are now at the stage where it is radically changing our society and structures.” (continued)

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