against Palestinian women in Gaza,
reports women’s rights center
“The man believes he has bought the woman and paid for her,
and therefore she has become his property and must obey his orders...
[Palestinian] laws give him the right of ownership, based on the man
being the guardian, and he is the one who commands and prohibits.”
- Zainab Al-Ghneimi, head of Women’s Legal Counseling Center
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
Violence against Palestinian women is widespread because of Palestinian laws and Palestinian culture that give men “the right of ownership” over their wives, according to the head of the Women’s Legal Counseling Center, Zainab Al-Ghneimi. Palestinian principles determine that the man “is the one who commands and prohibits,” she says, commenting on statistics of cases of violence reported to the Center of Women’s Affairs in Gaza.
The belief that the man “has bought the woman and paid for her, and therefore she has become his property and must obey his orders,” is, “unfortunately, the culture of the entire society,” said Al-Ghneimi.
Significantly, the statistics from Gaza show that a high percentage of women themselves felt that domestic violence is justified on certain occasions:
“41% of the women agreed that violence was justified if the woman leaves home without notifying her husband, while 74% agreed that violence was justified if she neglected her children.” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 29, 2015]
However, Al-Ghneimi rejected this justification of violence, saying that a mistaken understanding of Islam “on the part of men and society” is used to justify this male violence. “There is not a single religious [Islamic] text that encourages violence against women,” she argued.
Palestinian Media Watch has reported that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been criticized by Palestinian women’s rights groups in the past for not having changed, as promised, Palestinian laws that have been interpreted by many as allowing violence against women. In February 2014, a senior official in the PA Ministry of Women's Affairs reported a 100% rise in "family honor" killings and in November 2014, the official PA daily reported on a study that confirmed that “53% of Palestinian women have been exposed to violence - 63.3% of them once - and that 18% of non-married young women have been exposed to physical, psychological and sexual violence.” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 28, 2014]
Click to see more on the subject of women in PA society.
The following is a longer excerpt of the article printed in the official PA daily:
Headline: “Violence against women in Gaza: The undermining of family life”
“According to statistics recorded by the Center of Women’s Affairs in Gaza about the cases of violence reaching the center, 63% of women suffer from marital violence, 63 % believe that the violence has increased following the recent aggression against the Gaza Strip (i.e., Israel’s Operation Protective Edge which aimed at destroying Hamas' terror infrastructure and ability to launch rockets at Israel), 73 % suffer from verbal abuse, 24 % from physical abuse, 29.5 % from mental abuse, 9.4 % from financial abuse and 4.5 % from sexual abuse. Regarding the justifications for violence: 41 % of the women agreed that violence was justified if the woman leaves home without notifying her husband, while 74 % agreed that violence was justified if she neglected her children...
In this context, Zainab Al-Ghneimi, head of the Women’s Legal Counseling Center, said: ‘Married women are not forthcoming with these details about violence at the beginning, probably out of shame, and because the prevailing culture forbids discussing such secrets. This stems from the lack of a proper sexual ethics in our society...’
When asked for the reasons that may bring a man to act violently towards his wife, Al-Ghneimi responded that, in her opinion, there were many reasons, but that the main reason is probably that the man believes he has bought the woman and paid for her, and therefore she has become his property and must obey his orders. She clarified that unfortunately, this is the culture of the entire society, and that [Palestinian] laws give him the right of ownership, based on the man being the guardian, and he is the one who commands and prohibits. She continued: ‘One of the reasons for this is the misunderstanding of religion on the part of men and society - yet there is not a single religious text that encourages violence against women.’”
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 29, 2015]