Palestine: Femicide highlights need for domestic violence law

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The killing of a 30-year-old mother by her husband in occupied Ramallah has sparked outrage among Palestinians.

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Ramallah, Occupied West Bank – In the early hours of November 22, 30-year-old Sabreen Yasser Khawira was allegedly stabbed to death by her husband in a small Palestinian village on the outskirts of occupied Ramallah.

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The Palestinian Authority (PA) police found Khwera’s body inside his house in Kufr Nima village.

Her husband also attacked his own 75-year-old mother, who was injured and was shifted to a nearby hospital in Ramallah. He has sustained injuries, but his condition is stable.

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The suspect, identified as Amer Rabi, fled the scene, but was arrested later that morning, while Khweera’s body was shifted for forensic medical examination as part of a murder investigation.

The Khwera family is now asking authorities to kill Rabi as a punishment for horrific murder – a demand supported by Rabi’s family as well.

Khwira’s killing came as the world marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November and launched a 16-day global campaign demanding an end to gender-based violence (GBV), including in Palestine, where awareness Activities are being organized.

The killing has caused an uproar among Palestinians about domestic violence and the persistence of patriarchal norms in Palestinian society.

So far in 2021, more than 20 women have been killed in domestic violence in the occupied Palestinian Territories, while at least 15 other Palestinian women were killed inside Israel.

The Khweera family has said that her husband had behaved violently during their 12-year marriage and the mother of four had left home several times.

Khwira’s uncle and the family’s chosen media spokesman, Juma Taih, told Al Jazeera that her husband had spent a month in prison earlier this year after he filed a police complaint for an incident in which he told her over cable. was beaten.

“She was seriously injured – she had scars all over her body. I was with her when we filed a complaint with the police’s Family Protection Unit. Several court hearings took place, and she spent a month there before she was released ,” Tai said.

Al Jazeera reached out to the media officer for the Public Prosecution of the PA in relation to pre-existing domestic violence cases filed by Khawira, but was told this information could not be disclosed at this stage due to the ongoing investigation .

Taeyeh said Rabi was released after spending 40 days in prison in a drug-related case five days before the murder. “After his release she spent a night with him, and then he started threatening to hurt her, so she went back to her father’s house,” said her uncle.

“The night she was killed, she had threatened to hurt her 11-year-old son, who was next to her grandmother’s house, so she would come home. When she returned, he killed her.”

vicious circle

Taeyeh said Khweera started filing for divorce several months ago but was going through tough times, especially this year after her 33-year-old brother Saif died of cancer.

Her uncle himself was released from Israeli prisons only a year and a half ago after 25 years, and his father lives in Jordan because Israel has barred his return.

“She would escape his oppression and stay in her father’s house, and her family would support her every now and then and ask her to divorce her, but she was scared for the future of her children and would return to him in the hope that Was going to change and take responsibility,” Tayyah said.

He said that Khveera mentioned the fear of social stigma around divorced women and their children. “She would say, ‘I want to carry this burden for my children. Tomorrow, they will grow up and defend and defend me against their father.'”

“I Consider Sabreen” [Khweira] The one who sacrificed his life for his children,” Tay said.

Khvira was the mother of three boys – the eldest of whom is 11 years old, while her fourth is a child under the age of two. The children are now living with their grandmother.

“Sabrine” [Khweira] She loved life, her heart was as beautiful as her face, and she loved her children,” said her uncle, who had a business administration degree.

The 30-year-old previously worked for four years at the Kufr Nima local council in a land settlement unit. She was murdered while she was working at a cloth shop in the village.

“We live in a society that oppresses women, a misogynistic culture that degrades women’s status – when they are respected in Islamic teachings, and our laws do not provide women with justice in some of the most basic rights Do it,” Tay said.

no domestic violence law

Khawira is the 26th Palestinian woman to be killed in a homicide case in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip so far in 2021, the Ramallah-based Women’s Legal Aid and Counseling Center (WCLAC) told Al Jazeera.

Women’s civil society groups have long condemned the absence of Palestinian legislation to protect women from domestic violence.

The Ramallah-based Federation of Palestinian Women’s Societies, which Israel recently designated as a “terrorist organization” among six civil society institutions, condemned the killing.

“At a time when Palestinian women face crimes of Zionist occupation, including murders, arrests, settlements, wars and destruction of homes, and organizations that defend women’s rights are designated as ‘terrorist organizations’ decision to commit, another hand has touched a Palestinian woman, in a horrific knife stabbing crime,” the union said in a statement.

The union called for rapid adoption of the Domestic Violence Act, known as the Family Protection Act, “in light of the increase in murders, violence and all forms of violations against women and children”.

Draft of domestic violence law stalled At least 2016. since from, although it was written more than a decade ago.

“Violence happens because we don’t have preventive laws or protection laws. Laws are needed to protect these women from violence and these laws have to stop those who commit violence,” Amal Abu Surour, director of programs for WCLAC, told Al Jazeera.

“The reason for this is that as of now we do not have the political will to release them. At a time when we are seeing a number of laws being passed with Presidential Orders, such as the Electronic Crime Act or laws related to journalism and expression, which restrict freedom of expression. What should be the priority, is to issue laws that are related to social rights, ”said Abu Sour.

She pointed out that WCLAC, along with other women’s civil society organizations, has been working in collaboration with PA governments on domestic violence legislation since 2004.

Surour said, under the government of former PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, the draft reached the office of President Mahmoud Abbas for signature, but under the government of current Prime Minister Mohamed Shtayyeh it was once again sent for review.

“We don’t know where the draft is now,” said Abu Sarour.

Al Jazeera reached out to the Minister of Women’s Affairs, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

the ministry said Statement That “Family Protection Laws against Violence are an urgent social, national and humanitarian need to maintain the harmony of family and society,” adding that the Act “must be swift”.

The worsening situation under COVID-19

according to a 2019 survey By the PA’s Central Bureau of Statistics on Domestic Violence, 29 percent of current or ever married women in Palestine reported experiencing some form of violence, including physical, sexual or psychological, by their husbands at least once.

In the occupied West Bank, the rate was 24 percent, with the Gaza Strip at a higher rate of 38 percent.

In August 2019, the Isra Ghareb case in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem garnered widespread local and even international attention when she was killed at her home by her brother and other male family members.

Abu Surour said that three main things can be attributed to the persistence of domestic violence against women in Palestine: an inherited patriarchal culture, discriminatory laws against women and a lack of protection, and the occupation of Israel.

According to WCLAC, domestic violence has increased during the COVID pandemic. In 2020, the WCLAC recorded the killing of at least 37 Palestinian women in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The center handled over 700 cases requiring assistance at the women’s free gender-based violence helpline – a 160 percent increase from 2019.

Many other women’s rights groups informed of Increase in requests for consultations.

So far in 2021, WCLAC has received calls about more than 300 new cases.

“The women were forced to stay at home for longer periods with their attackers,” said Abu Sor, explaining that due to the quarantine or closure with everyone at home, the women had to take care of the entire family in addition to burden faced.

“Whenever there is a crisis or emergency, there is an increase in violence directed at the most vulnerable sections of the family – women and children,” he said.

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