VII. Recommendations

We have to ensure that the response to discrimination and violence is timely, adequate, and efficient. What is needed is a holistic system.

− Hassan Abu Libda, former minister of social affairs, Ramallah, December 1, 2005.

Human Rights Watch makes the following recommendations to assist the PA in reforming its laws and practices to comply with international standards in order to ensure that Palestinian women and girls are able to exercise their full range of human rights free from violence. Some of the recommendations are more resource intensive than others and would depend upon the availability of international donor assistance. The less resource intensive recommendations listed below can and should be undertaken immediately.

To the Palestinian Authority

To President Mahmoud Abbas

  • Develop a five-year plan for the prevention, punishment, and eradication of violence against women and girls, which specifically includes steps to be taken to ensure access to justice for victims of physical and sexual abuse. This plan should involve coordination between the Ministry of Social Affairs, the police, public prosecutors, and judges with the participation of Palestinian women’s rights organizations throughout every phase of plan design. This plan should also build in a systematic effort to conduct research and evaluation on violence against women and programmatic responses to ensure that the best possible response is designed in the difficult social and criminal justice setting of the OPT.

  • Launch a comprehensive public awareness campaign on violence against women and girls. The campaign should include public service announcements issued on television and radio and provide the public with hotline numbers of crisis centers and information about other victim services.

  • Provide directives to all tribal leaders and governors to refer all gender-based crimes to the appropriate legal authorities and ensure that they are held accountable for failing to do so. The president should also examine the role of informal justice actors in mediating non-criminal community disputes to ensure that the current system does not discriminate between community members.

  • Ensure that all individuals in positions of de facto authority, including tribal leaders and governors who endorse or tolerate violence against women and girls, are investigated and held politically responsible and, where appropriate, criminally responsible for their actions.

  • Publicize, through radio, print, and other media, the government’s support for women’s and girls’ rights to equality in all aspects of their public and private lives, including freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

  • To the Palestinian Legislative Council

  • Enact a family protection law that effectively prohibits and appropriately punishes all forms of violence against women and girls in line with international standards.

  • In the interim, repeal provisions of the penal laws currently in force in the West Bank and Gaza that condone or perpetuate violence against women and girls, including:

  • the following provisions of Jordanian Law No.16 (1960):

  • Article 340 providing a reduced sentence for a male who kills a female relative engaged in adultery.

  • Article 301 that considers the rape of a virgin as an aggravating circumstance of assault.

  • Article 308 allowing courts to cease legal action or suspend the sentence of rapists who agree to marry their victims.

  • Article 286 granting only male family members the right to file incest charges on behalf of minors.

  •        the following provisions of Egyptian Law No. 58 (1937):

  • Article 237 providing extenuating circumstances for the murder of a wife (but not a husband) in the act of committing adultery.

  • Article 291 exonerating rapists who agree to marry their victims.

  • To the Attorney General

  • Encourage women and girls to report domestic and sexual violence to the police and the public prosecutors through swift and respectful investigation and prosecution, the provision of adequate victim and witness protection programs, and the establishment of accessible specialized services for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

  • Systematically collect and analyze data and provide regular public updates on the number of complaints filed for domestic and sexual violence, and the outcomes of legal proceedings.

  • Apply penal code article 98 of Law No. 16 (providing a reduced sentence for someone committing a crime in a “fit of fury”) in a manner that is gender-neutral and that does not presume “fury” or “bad acts” in cases involving alleged “honor” crimes.

  • Explore the feasibility of establishing specialized centers, linked to the attorney general’s office, for legal accompaniment and psychological support services to victims of domestic and sexual violence. These centers should be accessible and adequately staffed and funded to assist all victims in a timely manner.

  • Eliminate the use of virginity tests for abused women and girls, and direct all doctors and health workers not to perform these exams.

  • To the Ministry of Interior

  • Establish, from the top down, a commitment to pursue violence against women and girls on a par with all other violent crimes—that is, to eliminate discrimination in the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of these cases.

  • Establish clear and explicit guidelines for police intervention in cases of domestic violence, including standardized arrest policies for perpetrators, the separate categorization of domestic violence in police records, and protocols for referring victims of domestic violence to social, legal and health services. These guidelines should be in line with the UN General Assembly’s Resolution on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Measures to Eliminate Violence against Women.

  • Establish mandatory police training on violence against women and girls and commission experts in this area to work towards eliminating gender bias in the handling of these cases. This training program should include, at a minimum, procedures for efficient intake of all domestic violence complaints, legal training on laws against domestic violence (once enacted), creation of a protocol for handling domestic violence complaints, and training on the dynamics of domestic violence. Training should be conducted in investigative methodology applicable to cases of domestic violence, including techniques for interviewing victims who have been traumatized, methods for protecting victims and witnesses from harassment, and methods for collecting and preserving evidence.

  • Implement the previous government’s decision to form domestic violence units in each police station.

  • Provide directives to all police officers to keep all cases of violence against women and girls strictly confidential, except in the proper course of police duty. Reprimand and discipline any police officers who violate the confidentiality of those reporting abuse.

  • Instruct police to open a formal file anytime they receive a complaint of violence against a woman or girl.

  • Prohibit police officers from proposing that perpetrators marry their victims as a solution to rape cases.

  • Institute a system of restraining orders that can be pursued separate from criminal prosecutions to protect women and girls from threats of violence.

  • Prohibit police officers from conducting or threatening to conduct virginity exams of women without their informed consent or referring them to forensic doctors for this purpose.

  • Collect and disseminate reliable data on the number of cases of violence against women and girls reported to the police in each jurisdiction monthly.

  • To the Ministry of Social Affairs

  • Establish a specialized department within the ministry to deal with family violence. This department should establish policies and internal regulations, which currently do not exist, to guide the ministry’s work on all aspects of family violence.

  • Provide additional training for ministry staff who deal with issues of family violence. The training should be implemented with relevant women’s organizations that have provided professional training to government agencies.

  • Establish quality shelters or other safe spaces for women and girl survivors of violence that function as refuges without compromising women’s privacy, personal autonomy, and freedom of movement.

  • Establish a fund to run the Jenin shelter, which is ready to operate but not yet open due to lack of funding.

  • Ensure that shelter staff do not have the discretion to turn away women seeking a refuge from violence based on any arbitrary or subjective criteria.

  • Create telephone hotlines for victims of domestic violence throughout the West Bank and Gaza. These hotlines should be widely publicized and be operated by well-trained staff that can offer basic counseling and provide non-judgmental referrals to specialized service providers and shelters.

  • To the Ministry of Health

  • Draft protocols for all medical professionals who may come in contact with victims of physical and sexual violence that ensure respect for victim’s confidentiality but that provide appropriate medical, psychological, protective and criminal justice referrals for actual or suspected victims.

  • Undertake training of medical personnel to recognize and respond appropriately to cases of domestic battery and rape. The Ministry of Health should consider adopting the training manual for health professionals on treating victims of violence that has been developed and used by NGOs in the OPT allowing experienced NGO staff to be involved in the training.

  • Hire and train social workers who can counsel, and advocate for, victims of violence who are identified by doctors in the health care system.

  • Require a training program on domestic violence as part of the curriculum at medical schools and institutes. Such curricula should include training on how to document injuries related to battering and sexual violence and how best to serve patients who exhibit such injuries.

  • Arrange for 24-hour security trained in averting harassment of victims by perpetrators at local hospitals.

  • Ensure that all doctors and medical professionals do not disclose confidential information about their patients. Reprimand those who disclose confidential information without the informed consent of those reporting abuse.

  • Develop a system throughout hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza to track the number of victims of family violence who seek medical attention.

  • To the Government of Israel

    The Government of Israel, as the occupying power in the OPT, has international humanitarian law obligations for the security and well-being of the protected Palestinian population. These obligations should extend to protecting the most vulnerable members of Palestinian society. Human Rights Watch urges the government of Israel to:

  • Provide travel permits valid for use in times of closure to judges and other persons essential to the functioning of the Palestinian justice system. Instruct Israeli security personnel to honor such permits at checkpoints and facilitate passage.

  • Allow emergency workers to move swiftly through checkpoints within and between the West Bank and Gaza in order to transport actual or potential victims of violence to safety. Develop a category of permits for Palestinians in life threatening situations, including victims of gender-based violence, allowing them to enter Israel, or to cross Israeli border crossings to surrounding countries, for safety.

  • Ensure that Palestinian victims of gender-based violence can access protective institutions inside Israel where necessary, including the shelter for victims of violence in Nazareth, used by Palestinian citizens of Israel.

  • Facilitate the movement of Palestinian judges, police officers, forensic doctors, lawyers, and social service providers within and between the West Bank, Gaza and Israel in order to access training aimed at improving the capacity of the Palestinian criminal justice system, including training on gender-based violence. Facilitate the movement of these professionals so they can access clients throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

  • To the International Donor Community

  • Encourage the PA to adopt the recommendations outlined above. Raise the issue of the PA’s inadequate response to the problem of violence against women at any high level meetings that take place with the relevant ministries addressed in this section.

  • Donors supporting women’s projects in the OPT should create mechanisms to coordinate their gender assistance in order to enhance the impact of these efforts and avoid duplication.

  • Support programs providing services for victims of violence. These services should include women’s shelters, medical care, counseling, literacy classes, job/skills training, and legal aid.

  • Provide capacity building for local professionals and enhance the use of local experts as much as possible in all donor-funded training and projects. Local experts should be consulted and included in all aspects of program design and implementation to ensure that donor funded interventions will be appropriate and effective.

  • Assist the PA and local NGOs toward the better training of police officers, public prosecutors, doctors, and judges in handling cases of violence against women.

  • Support programs that seek to review and reform existing laws to ensure that they are consistent with the PA’s commitments to uphold human rights principles outlined in the CEDAW convention and other international human rights treaties, do not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender, and afford women and girls equality of access and opportunity.

  • Support the development of academic and training programs to develop more experienced and certified psychologists.

  • Support the hiring of qualified psycho-social counselors at universities and schools, where students can report family violence.

  • Include domestic violence education as a part of the training activities for all income-generation programs targeted at women, in order to inform program participants about the currently available forms of relief from and redress for domestic abuse.