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December 25, 2012 12:22 pm

Abbas Reneges on Promise to Reform “Honor Killing” Laws

avatar by Zach Pontz

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PA Chairman Abbas after his return from the United Nations status upgrade bid. Photo: Screenshot.

Mahmoud Abbas has pivoted away from earlier promises to amend laws that offer leniency to men who use the “honor killing” defense.

In May 2011, Abbas pledged to revise the law and to guarantee maximum penalties for “honor killing” in response to protests over the killing of a university student in Hebron.

“Why change it? This would cause serious problems,” Hassan al-Ouri told Ma’an news agency, claiming that such a reform would “not benefit women.”

According to Ma’an, Al-Ouri said Abbas will not change the go-to clauses for lawyers seeking leniency for clients who claim they committed murder to defend family “honor.”

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Articles 97 to 100 of the Jordanian Penal Code, in force in the West Bank, still offer reduced sentences for any act of battery or murder committed in a “state of rage.”

“The (law) only addresses 1 percent of the problem. What we need is a new culture,” al-Ouri said.

Other officials insist the penal code is the problem. The law “privileges the killer,” Interior Ministry official Haitham Arrar, who heads the ministry’s democracy and human rights unit, told Ma’an.

“It encourages some people to commit crimes against women, which will go (as far as) killing them,” he continued.

“For us, for women, all this is irrelevant,” Soraida Hussein, General Director of the Women’s Technical Affairs Committee, an umbrella group of women’s organizations, told Ma’an. “Until now, our lives — in law and in practice — are seen as less than men’s.”

“The President should issue a decree that “anybody killing anyone else will be sentenced to the highest sentence possible, whether it is a woman or a boy,” said Hussein.

“The minute the law is changed and applied, the minute people will think twice,” she said. “It’s simple and it’s not done.”

Hussein suggested Abbas is hesitant to pass reforms because “he is not ready yet to confront conservative forces.”

Khawla al-Azraq, who runs a women’s counseling center in Bethlehem, noted that femicide is a global issue but “now in Palestine, they call this honor killing.”

“Sometimes these girls are abused by someone in the family and they need to cover this (up) and they kill her; sometimes because they need her money,” she told Ma’an. “These are the real reasons for killing.”

“In Palestine, this is the gap, that until now we don’t have our own legislation that really can protect women.”

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