Half of all Palestinian men beat their women – blame the Israelis
IN the Guardian Angela Robson looks at the lot of women living in Gaza. We meet Eman:
Eman, 23, is dressed in a black, veiled jilbab and lives in a collapsing shack on the outskirts of Gaza City. She left school at 10 and seven years later she was married, with a baby daughter… “Before the blockade, my husband used to make good money working in Israel,” she says. “With the blockade, that all stopped. When he can’t find any work and we have nothing to eat, he blames me. He is a like a crazy animal. I stay quiet when he hits me. Afterwards, he cries and says, if he had a job, he wouldn’t beat me.”
Does she believe him? We’re not told. Robson talks about the Israeli blockade on Gaza:
“The challenges of unemployment, fear of violence and restriction on movement can often mean that women and children are at the receiving end of men’s frustration,” says Ghada al-Najar from Oxfam Gaza. “There are many reasons why domestic violence is on the increase, including psychological trauma, the feeling of being trapped, and rampant poverty.”
What about men and attitudes to women? It’s grim:
Violence against women has reached alarming levels. A December 2011 study by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, PCBS, revealed that 51% of all married women in Gaza had experienced violence from their husbands in the previous 12 months.
A UN report highlights other aspects of that report:
More than a third of women living in the Gaza Strip are exposed to physical abuse in their homes, according to a 2011 violence survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Almost 15 per cent are exposed to sexual abuse, and a staggering three-quarters experience psychological abuse.
Robson meets Azza al-Kafarna:
“Women are covering themselves more, not necessarily because Hamas tells them to, but because they are afraid,” she says. “It goes back to the intifada in 1987. If a woman didn’t cover up, she would be criticised or have stones thrown at her. It is not like that now but life still feels precarious. The veil for some women is perhaps a physical shield against the world. It may also, ironically, be one of the few things she feels she has control over.”
It might also be a good way to cover the bruises.
In other enws, the AP reports:
The brutal killing of a battered wife in front of horrified witnesses in an open-air Bethlehem market prompted angry accusations Wednesday that Palestinian police and courts ignore violence against women.
Nancy Zaboun, a 27-year-old mother of three, had her throat slashed Monday after seeking a divorce from her abusive husband of 10 years. The husband was arrested at the scene and is the prime suspect, West Bank officials said.
The case reverberated across Palestinian society because of the brutality of the attack. However, violence against women continues to be tolerated—similar to attitudes in other parts of the Arab world—and women’s rights activists say abusive husbands are rarely punished.
The husband is a former policeman.
…tribal laws still remain strong, and violence against women is generally viewed by police as an internal family matter.
We hear of Khaula al-Azraq, “who runs a West Bank counseling center where Zaboun sought help”:
Al-Azraq said violence against women appears to be on the rise because of a deteriorating economic situation and because abusers don’t fear punishment.
In 2012, 12 women were killed by relatives, including three in so-called “family honor” cases, he said. Those include suspected adultery and similar cases.
Another site adds:
This was the fourth murder of a woman in the West Bank this month. Three other women were killed by their fathers in so-called honour killings.
The LA Times:
In just one month, a father allegedly killed his high school daughter in the West Bank town of Tulkarm, another father is accused of beating his daughter to death in the city of Hebron and a third allegedly killed a daughter in the Gaza Strip. All apparently were so-called honor killings…
What about the bigger picture? The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East reported on life in the West Bank:
Anecdotal evidence via womens’ support groups suggests that domestic violence is widespread, but largely unreported.
Another UNRWA report notes that after a study of one Palestinian area:
The results of a family survey conducted on a sample of 3,100 families living in 12 Palestine refugee camps in Jordan indicated that 61.8% of women and 60.1% of men approve of wife beating because of flawed domestic work.
Robson’s piece is headlined:
Women in Gaza: how life has changed – Behind the blockade, conservatism is rising, but so too is unemployment, poverty, depression and domestic violence.
All appalling. But blaming Israel for wife beating. Will more civilised relations between the sexes and the generations will be rooted in a wider social progress? And then what of the facts and figures?
Two thirds (65%) of women surveyed by the PCBS said they preferred to keep silent about violence in the home. Less than 1% said they would seek help. Mona, my 22-year-old interpreter, is astonished when I later ask what support there is for women such as Eman. “If her husband, or in fact anyone in the family, knew she had talked about this, she’d be beaten or killed. As for places for a woman to run to safety, I don’t know of any.”
So. How did the PCBS conduct its research in such a climate of fear? How did women too scared to speak out find the courage to take part in a survey? And why is it always poor people who beat women? The poor are too often used to promote a view the elite want us to believe. Are poor working-class men violent to their families?
In 2009, New Labour equated poverty with violence:
A government booklet offering advice to women on how to deal with recession-related domestic violence and discrimination from employers will be issued today, reflecting concern that women are to be worst hit by the economic crisis. The 30 page document, Real Help Now for Women, published by the Government Equalities Office, is based on the premise that “women, especially those who are pregnant or work part-time, can feel particularly vulnerable during economic downturns”.
Are these figures being used to further a pet project from above? Do half of all Palestinian men really beat their wives? Or is this all just a way to beat the Israelis?
Photo:Palestinian women hold signs in Arabic that read, “protecting women from violence is an official (authorities) and social responsibility,” right, and “shame on us. We Palestinians for killing our women,” left, during a demonstration protesting violence against women held at the spot where a woman’s throat was allegedly slashed by her husband on Monday, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012. Dozens of activists called on police and courts to do more to protect women against abusive husbands. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has promised to end a long-standing practice of treating killings in the family ‘with leniency. However, violence against women continues to be tolerated in Palestinian society and abusive husbands are rarely punished. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)