Palestinian Authority Chairman promised in 2011 that he would change laws that let murderers off with a light sentence if they claimed to have been motivated by the need to defend their “family honor” from the victim’s inappropriate behavior. However, in reality there are no plans to change the law, PA officials told Ma'an news.
“Why change it? This would cause serious problems,” said Abbas aide Hassan al-Ouri.
He admitted that a main motive for keeping the law is to avoid conflict with “conservatives,” saying, “We are for total equality, but if there is a basic tenet of Islamic code that we would be forced to change… people would revolt and brand us as non-believers.”
In so-called “honor killings,” victims – usually women – are slain following perceived sexual misconduct or immodest behavior. Reasons given for honor killings in recent years have included a single woman running away with a man, a woman's refusal to marry a man chosen by relatives, and rumors of promiscuity.
PA law gives a reduced sentence for murders committed in a “state of rage,” and caps sentencing for “honor” murders at six months in prison. After a 2011 “honor” slaying caused public outrage, Abbas changed a law giving a pardon for murder in cases where a man murdered a wife after witnessing her committing adultery - but, al-Ouri said, that law was not used in practice.
Ouri defended the decision not to change the law, saying that doing so would not help women, and that what is needed is “a new culture.”
Women’s rights activists who spoke to Ma'an argued that the law encourages murder of women, including in cases that have nothing to do with “family honor.”
“Because the penalty is one or two months, they consider killing her and dress it up as honor,” Minister of Women’s Affairs Rahiba Diab explained.
Thirteen girls and women have been murdered in PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria in 2012. There have been confirmed “honor” murders within Muslim communities in Israel as well.