Palestine: Honour killing laws changed
President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday signed an amendment to Palestinian law to end leniency for civilians found guilty of assault or murder "in defense of family honor." The move, welcomed by women's rights activists, came in the wake of the discovery of a Hebron woman drowned by her uncle because he disagreed with her choice of fiancee.
Until Sunday evening, personal status laws in the West Bank were those of the Jordan Penal Code, which operated in the area from 1948, when Jordan administered the area. Under international law, statutes and legal codes remain in place when a territory is occupied by a foreign power until new legislation is created to replace them.
The amendment adds "this does not include the killing of women for issues of family honor," to Article 240 of the Jordanian penal code.
The article mandates that leniency in sentencing is available to those who beat or kill their wives, mothers, sisters or women within the family if they commit adultery or other acts of sexual impropriety.
The amendment also applies to the Egyptian law which rules in the Gaza Strip, following Egypt's administration of the area between 1948 and 1967.
Article 18 of the Egyptian penal code says "Excuses are acceptable for deeds which would have been treated as a crime without that excuse if the suspect can prove that he committed that deed to avert inevitable consequences which would seriously harm the perpetrator or other people, he should protect, with respect to financial honor or financial damage. However, when they commit such deeds, they must not overreact and do only what is necessary and reasonable to achieve that goal. The damage resulting from that deed must be adequate to the consequences to be averted."
Minister of Women’s Affairs in the PA's caretaker government Rabiha Thiab said the move "did justice to women's rights, and will impact and restrain further violence against women."
Women rights activist and news producer Nahid Abu T'eima applauded the decision, saying she move was "a good start to changes affecting women's rights in personal status as well as family law."