Outrage Rising Among Palestinians Over Steady Increase in 'Honor Killings'

Annual number of Palestinian women murdered by family members quintuples since 2011.

Palestinian women separate olives from leaves during harvest in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip October 3, 2010.
Palestinian women separate olives from leaves during harvest in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip October 3, 2010.Credit: Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

The steady rise in the number of murders of Palestinian women by family members – known by the Orwellian misnomer "honor killings" – is sparking more urgent protests from Palestinian human rights activists. Yet neither the Hamas leadership in Gaza nor the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is responding, Al Jazeera reported Tuesday.

On February 22 two women, ages 17 and 18, were murdered in the Gaza Strip, the younger victim allegedly by her father, who police said tortured his daughter to death, while the older girl was killed by her brother, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

In response, some 100 protesters gathered outside the Gaza attorney general's office early this month to demand a tougher stance against such murders. On the day after the demonstration, a woman was murdered at her home in Ramallah; police arrested her husband.

Under Palestinian Authority law, alleged sexual "misconduct" by a woman is considered a "mitigating circumstance" in the judgment and sentencing of the defendant. The human rights organization Al Haq has been pressing PA President Mahmoud Abbas in recent years to ratify a new penal code that would make "honor killing" an aggravating, rather than mitigating, circumstance in murder cases, yet the old code remains in force.

In 2011, five Palestinian women were murdered by family members. The following year, the figure rose to 13, which doubled last year to 26. With less than a quarter of 2014 gone, the death toll is already at eight.

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