Promoting Gender-Sensitive Justice and Legal Reform in the Palestinian Territories: Perspectives of Palestinian Service Providers
Chaban, Stephanie, Journal of International Women's Studies
Worldwide, gender-sensitive justice and legal reform has been acknowledged as an important component in improving the status and security of female citizens; in recent decades, such reform has begun in a number of states in the Middle East/North Africa region. In the Palestinian Territories, governmental and non-governmental organizations that render services to women and girls have acknowledged the need to address gender inequality in Palestinian legislation, primarily within the personal status and penal codes by way of reform. This paper (2) presents some findings from working group sessions with Palestinian service providers conducted by the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) in the West Bank between April and May 2010 for a project entitled "Palestinian Women and Security. (3) Service providers discussed the impact of the Palestinian legal framework on the (in)security of women and girls and their ability to render services. Working group sessions revealed gaps in current legislation addressing gender-based violence, as well as service providers' views on women's awareness of their rights and the obstacles to reform. Recommendations from service providers are also presented.
Keywords: Service provision; Palestinian women; legal reform; gender-based violence
In recent years, a number of states in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region have addressed gender inequality in their legislation by way of reform. In the Palestinian Territories, governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that render services to Palestinian women and girls have acknowledged the need for such an effort locally in recent years. In fact, during 2009, the Palestinian Authority (PA) committed itself to "enable women's participation in policy and decision-making processes," and to "fight violence against women" through the Ministry of Women's Affairs in its Program of the Thirteenth Government, (3) however, legislative efforts have yet to occur. On International Women's Day (8 March) of that same year, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas enacted Presidential Decree No. (19) Concerning the Ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that was viewed by many as a symbolic signing of CEDAW. (4) During the same period, the Ministry of Women's Affairs advocated for an amendment to or repeal of Articles 340 and 98 of the Penal Code in the West Bank that justify the murder of a wife in the case of adultery and reduce the penalty for such murder if it is regarded as a 'crime of passion.' In a speech delivered later that year during the Campaign to Combat Violence against Women in Ramallah, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad stated that, "Both official institutions and NGOs have the duty to work on an equal footing and jointly shoulder the responsibility to set forth all that is required to ensure protection and equity for women, by formulating a national strategy to combat violence against women," and that,
"This requires radical developments and modifications in the structure of our legislations to sustain the principle of equality stipulated in the Basic Law, which should include the personal status law and the penal code, as well as issuing a code criminalizing violence against women in all its forms, to ensure justice and equality, including at the level of political participation in pursuance to the UN resolutions 1325 and 1889."
These statements and gestures indicate a strong willingness on the part of the current West Bank-based PA government to address gender-based inadequacies in the current legal framework and to address violence against women and girls. However, many obstacles stand in the way of reform and the ability of governmental organizations and NGOs to render services to Palestinian women and girls affected by violence and insecurity.
This paper presents some findings from working group sessions with Palestinian service providers conducted by the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) in the West Bank between April and May 2010 for a project entitled "Palestinian Women and Security. …