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Femicide and the Palestinian Criminal Justice System: Seeds of Change in the Context of State Building?

NCJ Number
Law & Society Review Volume: 36 Issue: 3 Dated: 2002 Pages: 577-606
Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian
Date Published
30 pages
This article discusses Palestinian society and how its criminal justice system relates to femicide.
Femicide is the killing of women for reasons related to their perceived or actual misconduct. In Palestinian society, femicide may occur in response to “crimes of honor,” generally involving a woman or girl’s sexuality. There are signs of resistance to sociocultural norms that encourage violence against females in the context of the ongoing struggle for the liberation and economic and political independence of Middle Eastern women. Theoretical considerations are culture, masculinity, and crimes against women; the legal codification of “crimes of honor;” and state building, patriarchy, and violence against women. This research was conducted in 1999 in the West Bank (Palestine), and involved the following sources: police and district attorney statistics, the Jordanian Penal Code, court decisions regarding cases of femicide, and attorney files of six femicide cases. The results of the study show that, despite a growing national resistance to all forms of oppression, the legal, social, political, and cultural practices prevailing in Palestinian society are orchestrated implicitly to stifle the voices of victimized females and hinder the construction of abuses against women as a social problem. The sexual, physical, and social lives of women become “hymenized,” and violent acts against females become constructed as legitimate “protective” behavior rather than criminal actions. This study suggests that there is a silent masculine-political conspiracy when a female is killed because of “honor.” There is a lack of political, social, and legal readiness to accept the validity of experiences reported by female victims. The legal codes do not officially legitimize honor killing, but they do sympathize with male killers by allowing them exemption from or reduction in penalty. Given the ongoing process for independence and the nation-building process in Palestinian society, the improvement of women’s legal status presents a significant challenge for politicians and reformers. 3 tables, 7 footnotes, 51 references


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