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ديسمبر 19، 2009

Fatima "I hate all the men and tried to kill myself"

Violence against Palestinian Women (Cappry leiva/ Flickr)
"I do not know anything about marriage and the wedding night, I fled back home and told my family that my husband wanted to to bad things with me." That's what Fatima said, a 53 year old woman from Hebron, who suffered from forced and early marriage .
"I was 14 years old, I refused to marry him, so my father hit me for me to accept. Under the family pressure, I finally agreed... My husband and his family locked me in my room for twenty days after that. I became pregnant immediately and had my first baby girl. They made me stop school. For having defied my husband's family, they had burned all my books and school material . I cried day and night, thinking of school."
Fatima is one of thousands cases of domestic violence in Palestine, a number that continues to rise steadily, as a statistical study of the Central Bureau of Statistics showed in 2006: the proportion of married women who had been through psychological violence amounted to 61.7%. 23.3% of them have been subjected to physical violence and 10.5% of them have been subjected to sexual violence But these figures do not reflect the full picture, in particular because the major problem for victims of domestic violence is that they do not complain. They prefer to remain silent to avoid a scandal, fearing that society would make them responsible.

Although Fatima decided to defy all those difficulties by developing herself, looking for opportunities of trainings and voluntary work, her husband and his family never stopped preventing her from doing so. Fatima gave her jewelry to her mother in law so that she would let her attend a course for kindergarten workers.
After that, Fatima was employed by the Red Crescent Society as an alternative teacher for two months ; her family tried again to keep her from the job by burning her clothes, locking her in and depriving her of food. Fatima cried much: "I hate all the men. I tried to kill myself with a big quantity of drugs to end all the suffering."

One of three women in the world has been beaten
A report issued by the United Nations (2001) says that one of every three women in the world, has been beaten, coerced. The World Health Organization says that up to 70% of homicide victims are female. They are murdered by their male partners because of sexual violence or ill-treatment.

Sahar Qawasmi, a social worker, explains how Palestinians can get help:

"Women in Palestinian society are facing all forms of physical and psychological violence. Social workers try to help and guide them in several ways: individual councelling women feel allowed to express their feelings of anger and pain; group discussions, mixed or not, where they learn to develop and rebuild themselves; legal advising in coordination with the police in order to take legal action against the aggressors. In the cases where legal action does not work, social workers can ask the victim's family for help: to put her under the authority of a member of her clan, or in a domestic violence shelter. "

Elham Sami, head of its Complaints department, says: "The Ministry of Women's Affairs was set up in 2004, Its task is to follow institutions operating in the women's sector and monitor how they put the policies approved by the ministry into practise, how they contribute to reducing the gender gap. But the ministry is facing chaos among these institutions."

A Penal Code suffering from weakness
Amal al Jubeh, a coordinator in a legal advising office in Hebron, describes the Penal Code of Palestinian territories, "weak and inefficient":
"There's a law in preparation at the Legislative Council. But as its work is frozen, it is blocked. The law in application is the jordanian one. It does'nt include an explicit text about domestic violence:
"if some victims get deeply hurt and must stay for twenty days at hospital or at home, in that case only, the criminal can be punished and sent to prison for three months, with a fine ranging from 5 to 7 dinars."

Dr. Mahmoud Saheb, a psychiatrist in Hebron, says:
"The number of cases we receive remains litle. For fear of scandal, Palestinian society does not accept the idea of asking a psychiatrist for help."

Violence against women in Palestinian society is not something transient but thorough and serious. It threatens the structure of the Palestinian family. We must encourage all sectors and institutions to determine the reasons for the spread of this phenomenon and develop solutions to address them.

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*photo :Violence against Palestinian Women (Cappry leiva/ Flickr)

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