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Human Rights Watch praises repeal of articles against women in Palestinian law

The international rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), praised on Thursday the Palestinian Authority’s recent repeal of what it said were “certain discriminatory provisions against women” in Palestinian law, describing the act as “a good first step toward what should be the repeal of a series of such measures.”

It said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed on March 14 a law which repealed article 308 of the 1960 Jordanian Penal Code enforced in the West Bank that allowed alleged rapists to escape prosecution and could allow convicted rapists to avoid imprisonment if they married their victims.

The new law also amended article 99 to prohibit judges from reducing sentences for serious crimes, such as the murder of women and children.

“The Palestinian Authority has finally closed disturbing colonial-era and other loopholes that could allow rapists to escape punishment if they married their victims, and to treat murders of women as a lesser crime than murders of men,” said Rothna Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher at HRW.

The rights organization said there are still other forms of discrimination that need to be repealed in Palestinian law that include birth registration, personal status laws, and gaps in accountability for domestic violence. It said Palestine should make such reforms ahead of the first review of its record on women’s rights before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – the body that monitors the international women’s rights treaty – in Geneva in July.

Human Rights Watch discussed in April the status of women with members of the Palestinian Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Public Prosecution Office. It also met with 18 representatives of various women’s rights groups, human rights organizations, and international organizations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

It also said that systematic abuses associated with Israel’s 50-year occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip including institutionalized discrimination, home demolitions and restrictions on movement fundamentally undermine the rights of Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza.

It said it documented the impact of these practices in a submission for Israel’s review of its record under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in October 2017.

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