Trailblazing Woman Runs for Mayor of Bethlehem

Vera Baboun Shakes Up Palestinian Society With Race

Changing Society: Palestinian women are pressing for a bigger role in a society still dominated by men. Part of that struggle includes running for political offices.
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Changing Society: Palestinian women are pressing for a bigger role in a society still dominated by men. Part of that struggle includes running for political offices.

By Reuters

Published October 14, 2012.
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He is awaiting trial by a judicial system where, Baboun says, “crimes against women are taken lightly”.

The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) says 13 women were killed by relatives in 2011, and 12 have been killed so far this year.

“There’s definitely an increase in cases of femicides in Palestinian society,” says Randa Siniora, director of ICHR.

In 2011, following an outcry over the drowning of a young woman whose family disapproved of her suitor, President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Fatah movement, suspended two laws previously used to justify crimes against women.

But the rights group Al Haq says the penal code is still riddled with loopholes, including at least four laws listing circumstances that can be used to mitigate crimes against women.

Women’s advocacy groups say men have exploited these provisions in order to kill women over disputed inheritances, to remarry, or to conceal rape and incest by claiming in court to have acted in the name of “family honour”.

Of Zaboun’s killing, Baboun says: “Had there been laws that deter such crimes, it would never have happened.”

Some 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem have been under Israeli occupation since a 1967 war.

The Palestinian legal system, at best a flawed jumble of laws inherited from successive colonial powers, has not fully recovered from an uprising against Israeli occupation in 1987 that left it in shreds.

That vacuum has been filled of necessity by archaic tribal law, effective in its own way at preventing cycles of retribution by requiring the families of perpetrators and victims to agree a settlement.


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