Al Mezan Center for Human Rights is gravely concerned about the murder of a 17-year-old pregnant girl in Gaza and strongly condemns the usual laxity of competent authorities in prosecuting perpetrators of gender-based crimes.
According to Al Mezan’s investigation, the victim’s body was transferred to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza—where the victim lived—at around 3:39 pm on 13 June 2021. The findings of forensic experts confirmed that the girl, who was pregnant, had been subjected to aggravated assault, with her body covered with bruises. Her 24-year-old husband was referred to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Gaza as the primary suspect.
In a statement by the police spokesperson the next day, it emerged that the girl had been beaten to death by her husband, who remains in custody pending further investigation.
In this regard, Al Mezan urges the Public Prosecutor to fully comply with all necessary legal proceedings without resorting to the unacceptable “extenuating circumstances” justification that is usually employed to explain laxity and tolerance in proceedings against the perpetrators of such criminal acts against women and girls. This must be done while also maintaining strict compliance with due process rights.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that violent family disputes, misuse of firearms, and so-called “honor killings” have led to the killing of 61 women since 2010. This is within the context of insecurity, instability, and lack of rule of law in Gaza.
Al Mezan recalls that protection of women and in particular girls requires a major legislative review that would eliminate legal provisions allowing child marriage. The Family Rights Law No. 303 of 1954 in force in Gaza, for instance, allows the marriage of girls below the age of 18, even though they are legally considered children under the Palestinian Children Act No. 7 of 2004 as well as under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified by the State of Palestine in 2014. In the West Bank, however, the current minimum age of marriage is 18 for women. Child marriage not only violates the full spectrum of children’s rights, but also seriously undermines their best interests, contrary to the provisions of the Palestinian Children Act and international human rights law.
Concerned by the seriousness of this crime, given its possible premeditated nature and implications on the right to life, Al Mezan calls on the relevant Palestinian authorities to prevent the recurrence of such crimes against women and girls. In doing so, the authorities must uphold the international obligations of the State of Palestine, notably those stemming from its accession to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the CRC.
By imposing a less severe penalty on perpetrators on account of extenuating or mitigating circumstances—notably in the name of so-called “family honor”—the authorities promote and justify violence against women and girls, especially as the results of investigations usually reveal financial issues and gender-based violence as the main motives behind such criminal acts. Therefore, Al Mezan strongly urges the competent authorities to address femicide and all crimes of murder equally. Further, Al Mezan calls for the introduction of family protection laws that ensure the full protection of women in particular and families as a whole.