SOAS University of London

Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law

Israel/Palestine - Women Against Violence, Nazareth

Women Against Violence was established in 1992 in Nazareth, by a group of Palestinian women who were alerted by the lack of services and refugee for Palestinian women suffering or threatened by violence. The Association set for itself three main goals: to break the taboo surrounding the problem of gender based violence in all its forms in Palestinian society; to create services and refuge for women survivors of violence, and to promote the status of women in the Palestinian community. Since 1992, WAV has established a number of services including a shelter for battered women and their children; a 24-hour crisis centre for victims of sexual and physical violence; a shelter for young women in distress; and two half-way houses. WAV has also launched an awareness-raising project going into high schools and is working with groups of women on women's rights, self-awareness and empowerment. Women Against Violence was a founding member of Al-badeel, the Coalition for struggle against 'Family Honour' crimes established in 1994 by women's and human rights organisations from the Palestinian community in Israel. Together with other organisations, it also established the Working Group for Equality in Personal Status Issues. Women Against Violence is directed by Aida Touma-Sliman, who has addressed the issue of 'crimes of honour' in domestic, regional and international meetings, including at the CIMEL/INTERIGHTS Roundtable in 1999.

The contribution by Women Against Violence to the CIMEL/INTERIGHTS 'Crimes of Honour' project will combine case-based research with a consideration of the development of the attitudes of key actors and opinion formers in the Palestinian community inside Israel. In the first part, Israeli legislation seeking to protect women from violence in the family will be assessed in light of the procedures followed by police and other state authorities in dealing with Palestinian women threatened with or suffering from violence and in light of an examination of case records to illustrate the attitude of the judiciary. In the second part, an overview will be made of public statements and positions made and taken by Palestinian community leaders, village heads and local politicians, as well, where appropriate, of the interventions made in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, on the issue of violence against women in general and 'crimes of honour' in particular. An attempt will be made to track the impact of the civil society campaign launched by Al-badeel on these attitudes and, if possible, on the attitudes of members of the judiciary in dealing with cases brought before them. An attempt will be made to reveal any recent developments in the concept of 'honour' under scrutiny, whether in terms of the conduct of the woman accused of 'violating' it, or in terms of those asserting the right to 'defend honour.'

The paper has been presented in preliminary form at the February 2002 meeting and will be finalised for the subsequent publication (for abstract see Publication).