12 September 2019

Introduction:

Half of the population in Palestine are mostly women by mid-2019, with an estimation of 4.98 million people; 2.53 million are males (51%) of the population compared to 2.45 million females (49%), despite the close percentage in population, the reality of women indicates a gender gap and inequality between males and females. Numbers of Palestinian women do not enjoy the same rights as men, due to several factors within the Palestinian society, such as: the discriminatory legislation, gender-based policies, culture, norms and the general social context within the Palestinian population.

If we want to address the participation of Palestinian women in the public life in terms of characteristics and percentages of , it is still limited in public life compared to men, for example 82% of judges are men, with only 18% are women, 73% of lawyers are men, with only 27% are women, 80% of prosecutors are men, with only 20% are women. There are 25% of women engineers registered in the Engineering Syndicate compared to 75% of men. As for student council’s memberships in the Palestinian universities, the percentage of female student’s participation reached 31% compared to 69% of male students.

On the participation in the civil public sector, women are 43% of civil worker compared to 57% for men. The gap is clearly reflected in those who hold the senior positions such as General Director and above, reaching 12% for women compared with 88% for men in same job category, the gender gap can be reflected  in statistics  of unemployment, labor force participation, education, average income and poverty.
violence rates against women.

Despite the calls of thousands of Palestinian girls and the raged demands from women and community organizations over many years, and the use of various means of pressure, protest , complaints and demands for a changing the reality of Palestinian women, standing with the outdated remnants of the community and government system that have enshrined the policy of violence against women and impunity within  the Palestinian society, the  Palestinian authorities continue to deal with excessive absurdity towards these appeals. 

The International Platform of NGOs working for Palestine took a role in sounding the alarm about this issue. for the Palestinian civil society organizations, that there are at least 18 Palestinian females who have been killed since the beginning of the year of 2019 by their family members, in addition to 28 females killed in the previous year of 2018 and 18 females in the year of  2017. These numbers are  in addition to hundreds of cases of violence committed against women per year, which are difficult to trace, access or detect as a result of lack of protection provided by the  community and judicial system.


We cannot talk about the possibility of reducing this phenomenon of violence against women without parallel efforts in all areas, such as the existence of community mechanisms that reduce violence against women, also the need for sufficient awareness within the society of women's rights, a much needed work to enact special laws to protect women, deter criminals, impose the harshest penalties on perpetrators, and develop educational and awareness programs for youth, especially because most of the killers are from this category, in addition to providing protection and rehabilitation services for battered or at-risk women.

Escaping from the Punishment:
Escaping from the punishment policy is due either to a weakness in the judicial and executive systems as well as their will to change, or because of the imposition of fait accompli policy, in the same context, the International Platform of NGOs working for Palestine stated that there is administrative negligence and corruption in the judicial and executive systems that had brought about the punitive measures adopted for those who perpetrate abuse or violence against Palestinian women and girls and made it an easy outlet for them to escape and have immunity within the judicial system.

This includes cases where perpetrators are not prosecuted, arrested, or punished, as well as failing to trace the crime and criminal and expose them to public.

The International Platform of NGOs working for Palestine has pointed out, however, that the absence or weakness of accountability and the existence of non-deterrent laws and harsh clauses for the perpetrators of such crimes lead to a situation where those who want to commit a crime feel that they will be able to escape impunity, it is not possible to talk about the killing of Palestinian women under the name of "family honor." Women are killed under various pretexts, and the use of "family honor" is only to justify the crime and abuse of a victim, knowingly that there no one was held responsible for the shed blood even with the shocking fact that all the women who dissected, were found virgins.

Ending impunity requires an integrated effort from the role of law enforcement, responsible agencies and courageous media, to the role of individuals and institutions concerned, to an independent and impartial judiciary.

Special Law for the Protection of Family from Violence:
The idea of adopting a law to protect the Palestinian family from violence is based on the creation of legal measures that contribute to reducing cases of violence within family. These measures allow law enforcement agencies to intervene quickly and provide protection for victims of domestic violence.

The law proceeds from a different preventive procedural philosophy based on the legislation and legal procedures enforced in Palestine, in addition to creating definitions of gender-based violence, and other definitions associated with the procedures and interventions lacking in the current legislation, which contribute significantly to provide an infrastructure for the work of all authorities in providing protection and rehabilitation for victims of domestic violence.

Although civil society organizations and the Legislation Committee have completed the draft resolution to protect family from violence, which has been under discussion for more than 15 years, however, as of the date of this report, it has not been promulgated as a law, as it is hoped that this law will protect Palestinian women from domestic and community violence.

This comes in light of the reliance of the Palestinian judiciary on an old penal code dating back to the sixties of the last century, some believe that it does not provide protection for women, but contains mitigating penalties for those who kill women on issues related to "family honor" crimes.

The international platform of NGOs working for Palestine clears that “The quick Bill approval and validation are good start to stop the serial killings and attacks on Palestinian women socially”, this is in reference to annually proven figures of women victims as mentioned previously in the report.

The “Protecting Family from Violence” Bill, for which civil society organizations, NGOs and the Ministry of Women's Affairs have struggled to enforce, aims primarily to reduce violence against women and protect them from all forms of domestic violence.

The necessity and urgency of adopting the Law “Protecting Family from Violence” Bill also comes from the need to strengthen the legal framework for the protection of battered women, develop and amend domestic laws to protect women from violence, and address and change the reality radically and tangibly within a vision based on set indicators, away from the idea of  gradient or slow enforcement of these rights.
 
The need for a law to protect family from violence is increasing after the installation of several specialized departments in the Ministry of Social Development and other concerned bodies, whether the police or the Public Prosecution, which face great challenges in the absence of a law that provides a frame of reference for its work. This led many of these authorities to issue procedural evidence to facilitate their work in the absence of adopting a law for protection of family from violence.

In 2018, the 17th Palestinian government headed by Dr. Rami Hamdallah, upon his resignation, referred the Bill to Mr. President for promulgation. The Office of the Legal Counsel of Mr. President returned the Bill to the Council of Ministers, considering that the government in the resignation period was a caretaker was and thus not entitled to refer or draft laws to Mr. President. After the swearing-in of the 18th government headed by Dr. Mohamed Shetayeh, the Bill was forwarded to the President for promulgation, but this has not been done yet.

Remarks on the Bill:
The promulgation of the "Family Violence Protection Act" is an introduction and a prelude with indicators and standards that will apply to the Personal Status Code and the Penal Code, in terms of the prevalence of justice and equality over the relations of power, oppression, injustice and the prevailing cultural and social bias.

For years, the family protection law has been discussed, and therefore subject to many amendments, and is now ready for approval by the government. There are some remarks on the draft law that should be remedied and amended, but not at the expense of the dire need to expedite the adoption of the draft law. These notes include:

  • The Bill retains the victim's right to suspend prosecution in some cases, keeping victims of domestic violence under social pressure, often forcing women to drop their personal rights under pressure from society and family. The draft law loses its goal of protecting victims of domestic violence.
  • The lack of clarity regarding the legislative priorities of the government, which refers in many of its texts to the functions of the Ministry of Social Development, which already suffers from a severe legislative shortage in relation to its work and which is still based on the Jordanian Social Affairs Law No. (14) of 1956.
  • The draft law did not differentiate between the Preventive Protection Order and the General Protection Order after the crime, and confusion led to the lack of clarity of the action taken in both cases, and the Bill became predominantly criminal and punitive in nature, There is a lack of philosophy for victims of domestic violence based on prevention, protection and rehabilitation, preventive intervention prior to the occurrence of violence, as well as a considerable contradiction with regard to those responsible for issuing the protection order.
  • The draft law provided for the existence of a court competent to deal with cases of domestic violence, but neglected to address the composition of the court, its degree and jurisdiction. The draft resolution also ignored the importance of explicitly stipulating the formation of a specialized prosecution for the protection of family from violence and defining it as the prosecution competent to follow up cases of domestic violence that should be have a special article in the body of the law.
  • With regard to penalties, the draft law criminalizes all acts that fall within the context of domestic violence and considers it a punishable offense in Article 26, without specifying what punishment is imposed for the committing of such offenses, in addition, many of the offenses criminalized under the Penal Code, which fall within the domestic violence crimes, contradicting by that the draft resolution.
  • Finally, there are clear problems in the law with regard to crimes of rape, sexual harassment, incest, indecent assault, prostitution and abuse of pregnant women, which should be remedied and amended.

Demands of Civil Society Organizations:

  • Palestinian civil society organizations and institutions called on the government and the Palestinian President to a speedily approval on the law draft to protect families from violence. This comes in light of the high rates of violence against women, and in fulfillment of the obligations of Palestine's accession to the international conventions, especially the recommendation issued by the Committee "CEDAW" at the United Nations on the adoption of the law on the protection of family from violence.
  • Calling on the government to announce the formation of the committee charged with formally reviewing the draft resolution and setting its timeframe, and to provide civil society institutions with the final version of the drafted law. Emphasizing on the need to open up to civil society and to call for serious and quick consultations on the subject.
  • The draft resolution should include articles referring to the role of those involved in domestic violence cases from the initial contact with the victim until the end of the trial, through the preliminary investigation, the hearings of the victim debriefing, the protection of the victim during the trial, the hearing of witnesses debriefings and other procedures to which the victim is a party, as well as the procedures to be followed to protect the victim and rehabilitate the aggressor, in order to ensure the victims' right of justice.
  • The draft resolution should be consistent with international standards against domestic violence and violence against women, in particular the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, In addition to the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on Crime Prevention and criminal justice measures to eliminate violence against women, in particular model strategies and practical measures to eliminate violence against women in crime prevention and criminal justice.