Abuse of women still rife in Palestinian life, says study

Sanaa Umar fidgets with her handbag as she describes the daunting task of making a new start when her own father blames her for failing to keep the violent and abusive man who married her at 15 and divorced her at 16.

"My husband started beating me without any reason in the second week of the marriage," says Sanaa, now 17, from Beach refugee camp. Sanaa is not her real name - she is too frightened to be identified. "He beat me with a stick all over my body. It was like he was controlled by a genie. Even his own mother tried to stop him but she couldn't."

The man, a relatively well-off 22-year old, had seen her at a wedding and asked her - very poor - parents for her hand in marriage. Her father, who had made her finish school at 12 and had also often beaten her, was happy. "I agreed because my father agreed," Sanaa explains.

But all along her new husband was conducting a relationship with another 15-year-old girl whose father had forbidden the marriage. At one point, her husband beat Sanaa so badly that she was unable to get out of bed for a week, before he eventually dumped her back at her parents' home.

Thanks to the small but valiant Gaza Women's Empowerment Programme, Sanaa, now living with her parents, has been given a second chance and is training for an independent life as a hairdresser and beautician. At first her father opposed her taking the course because he didn't want her status publicly on display, bringing shame, as he saw it, on the family. "Divorced women have a bad reputation," Sanaa explains.

But while he came round, under pressure from Fatma's mother, he is still verbally abusive. "He makes me guilty because I didn't keep my husband. He uses bad words I cannot repeat."

Sanaa's experience - the pressure into an early marriage, the abuse by father and husband, and the stigma attaching to the victim rather than the assailant - is all too common in Gaza, where more than one in five women say they suffer physical domestic violence but there is not a single women's shelter. A Question of Security, published today by Human Rights Watch (HRW), excoriates the Palestinian police and justice system for the near-total failure to protect women in both Gaza and the West Bank from abuse ranging from "honour killings" to rape, incest, beatings and sexual abuse.

While accepting that closures, economic blockades and bombardment by Israel have weakened Palestinian institutions, HRW strongly rejects that as an "excuse" for long-standing and discriminatory - mainly Jordanian and Egyptian-derived - laws that "condone and perpetuate" such violence or the "virtual absence" of polices to "prevent violence, assist victims and hold perpetrators accountable".

It points out the law drastically reduces penalties for men who kill or hurt their wives or female relatives for committing adultery, offers rapists complete impunity if they agree to marry their victims, allows only male relatives to file incest charges on behalf of children and requires mandatory prosecution for domestic violence if the victim is hospitalised for more than 20 days. The report says the police routinely "mediate" cases of sexual and physical abuse by returning victims to the "care" of their attackers - often in collaboration with tribal or clan leaders. It also condemns the use of - sometimes enforced- virginity testing, whether to exculpate assailants of sexual assault if the tests prove negative, or to dismiss victims' complaints if they prove positive

Only 1 per cent of polled Palestinian women said they had lodged complaints. And of 85 reported cases of rape in 2003, only one resulted in a conviction. There have been 98 officially reported cases of "honour killing" or other domestic murders of women in Gaza and the West Bank since 2000.

* A Palestinian suicide bomber blew herself up yesterday near Israeli troops in Beit Hanoun where Israeli forces killed two women acting as human shields for militants. The Israeli army said one soldier was slightly wounded. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has travelled to the Gaza Strip for talks with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on a unity government.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

£45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

General Cover Teacher

£100 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Secondary Teachers of all sub...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

General Cover Teacher

£100 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Secondary Teachers of all sub...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game