Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women this week, a panel of “Palestinian” experts discussed the issues of marital rape and domestic violence in Palestinian society, and the general lack of protection afforded to women by Palestinian law. The discussion was aired on official Palestinian Authority TV.
According to Khadija Zahran, director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) Legislation Monitoring Department, violence against women is accepted as culturally normative in Palestinian society, including among Palestinian women.
“There is no recognition [in Palestinian society] of psychological or sexual violence. There are assumptions that the husband has sexual rights to the wife, and she does not know that there is a concept of ‘marital rape.’ Her body is a right permitted to the man or the husband.”
Bader al-A’araj, a social-sciences lecturer at Birzeit University, explained that “the male patriarchal culture [of Palestinian society] justifies this type of violence. Secondly, [we have] a lack of defined and detailed deterrent laws that will protect women from violence—whether at home, on the street or at the workplace. And thirdly, there is tolerance, especially when the violence is within the family.”
Al-A’araj also addressed the lack of suitable laws to deter violence against women in Palestinian society.
“Not only do we still not have laws protecting women from violence—some of the types [of violence] are not even recognized in our social consciousness as … violence.”
According to Nan Jacques Zilberdik, senior analyst at Palestinian Media Watch, an Israel-based media watchdog, the fact that women’s rights and domestic violence are becoming a more regular topics of debate in P.A. media is encouraging.
“Over the past year or two, we’ve seen professional Palestinian women themselves becoming more vocal about claiming their rights and questioning the male-dominated society, and official P.A. media seems more willing to provide women’s rights advocates with a platform,” she said. “It will take a lot of education to change these entrenched social norms that grant men the right to physically, verbally and sexually abuse women, but this is a start.”