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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Human Rights Watch: Women and Girls in the 'Palestinian Authority' are victims of violence

Human Rights Watch issued a report yesterday on violence against women and girls in the 'Palestinian Authority.' Although the report tried to say it wasn't really the 'Palestinians' fault since they are under the 'occupation,' especially since the 'outbreak' (as if it was spontaneous!) of the intifada in 2000, in the end, they couldn't blame it all on Israel. This is from the executive summary:
While there is increasing recognition of the problem and some Palestinian Authority (PA) officials have indicated their support for a more forceful response, little action has been taken to seriously address these abuses. Indeed, there is some evidence the level of violence is getting worse while the remedies available to victims are being further eroded.

Defenders of the status quo on this issue typically justify the PA’s failure to take more decisive action by highlighting the many critical political, economic, and security matters facing the PA, a situation only exacerbated by events following the electoral victory of Hamas in January 2006. While it is true that Israeli actions since the outbreak of the current intifada in September 2000—including attacks on PA institutions and security services, and Israel’s current refusal to remit tax revenues,among others—have significantly weakened PA capabilities, this is no excuse for inaction. There is much that PA officials could be but are not doing to end violence against women inside the family. This report offers concrete suggestions for change, some of which are highlighted in the key recommendations listed at the end of this section.

There is little comprehensive data on violence against women and girls in the OPT, but the basic contours of the problem are clear. Various studies and statistics gathered by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) and Palestinian women’s groups record high levels of violence perpetrated by family members and intimate partners, aggravated during times of political violence. Information obtained from social workers, academics, and police officials on the prevalence of domestic violence, incest, and actual or threatened “honor” crimes, also indicate that reported rates do not reflect the full extent of such violence. In preparing this report, Human Rights Watch spoke to dozens of women victims of violence in the OPT and their accounts confirm the seriousness and scope of the problem, on issues ranging from spousal and child abuse to rape, incest, and “honor” crimes.

Because it is already well established that violence against women and girls inside the family is a serious problem in the OPT, a primary objective of our research was to assess why this state of affairs is allowed to persist and examine the reasons for the PA’s continuing failure to respond effectively to such violence. To that end, researchers also spoke to dozens of Palestinian government officials—including police officers, prison officials, civil and family court judges, public prosecutors, municipal governors, representatives of the ministries of health, justice and social affairs, and the former head of a Palestinian forensic institute—and nearly fifty lawyers, social workers, doctors, women’s rights activists and non-governmental organization (NGO) staff, and UN agency personnel.

Based on these interviews and the other research described below, we found that two primary obstacles stand in the way of enhanced protection against domestic violence for Palestinian women and girls: discriminatory laws that condone and perpetuate such violence and the virtual absence of institutionalized policies to prevent violence, assist victims, and hold perpetrators accountable.

Jordanian and Egyptian criminal laws in force in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively, do not effectively prohibit or appropriately punish violence against women and girls. These laws include provisions that provide a reduction in penalty to men who kill or attack female relatives committing adultery; relieve rapists who agree to marry their victims from any criminal prosecution; and allow only male relatives to file incest charges on behalf of minors. Government and nongovernmental efforts aimed at overturning these inherited laws and developing unified Palestinian family and penal codes have been hindered by lawmakers’ divisions over critical reforms and the slow pace of passing new legislation during the six years of intifada. The result is virtual impunity for perpetrators of domestic violence and continued obstacles in the way of victims who might otherwise report abuse.
A few comments:

First, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali pointed out in the Sunday Times just ten days ago, women and their rights are the key to change in the Muslim world. Human Rights watch implies - correctly - that women's rights in the 'Palestinian Authority' are not that different from women's rights elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim world.

Second, the report specifically mentions Egypt and Jordan. For those who are not aware of what happened in downtown Cairo about ten days ago (and if you don't read blogs you probably aren't because the mainstream media tried to suppress it), have a look at these links. (There are several more links at the same sites for those who are interested in exploring further. But imagine hundreds of Mike Tyson's chasing a group of young women into corners...).

Third, how can they blame this on Israel? Does Israel make Arab men abuse their wives and girlfriends? Then how come it happens in Saudi Arabia too? For that matter, how come it happens in Egypt and Jordan and Israel and the United States of America - among Muslims? It's a Muslim problem and the fact that the 'Palestinian Authority' isn't doing anything about it has nothing to do with Israel or with the 'intifadeh' and everything to do with the fact that the Muslim world sees nothing wrong with it.

Finally, hiding behind the 'intifadeh' ignores the most important basic fact: If the 'Palestinians' wanted to fix this, they could. They don't want to fix this. They don't see anything wrong with it. They're not interested in building a state, let alone a democratic state. They're interested in destroying another state that is a democratic state: the State of Israel. The fact that Human Rights Watch even lists the 'occupation' (and for the record, OPT above stands for 'Occupied Palestinian Territories') as an implicit cause of the abuse of 'Palestinian' women and girls is disgusting and a distortion of reality.

For those who are interested, the full report is here.

Dhimmi Watch says that much abuse of women is part of the authentic Islamic tradition:
The gap between incidents and complaints filed is undoubtedly affected by Qur'an 4:34, which sanctions beating one's wife.


Arguments for a change in the law would likely be countered with Bukhari 4:54:560, where Muhammad himself states: ""If a husband calls his wife to his bed (i.e. to have sexual relation) and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning""


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