Kayan Feminist Organization and Baladna Association for Arab Youth have conducted field work into the attitudes of Palestinian youth in Israel towards violence against women and the killing of women. The goal was to access concepts of violence and honor as perceived by Palestinian youth. The research was conducted by Dr. Suhad Daher-Nashef, Program Coordinator of Women’s Studies at Mada al-Carmel – Arab Center for Applied Social Research, and lecturer at Al-Qasemi and Oranim educational colleges.
The questionnaires were distributed amongst young people aged between 14 and 19, both male and female, across three different religions and living in nine different Arab localities in Israel; 393 forms were completed and analyzed. The questionnaires contained a number of statements about which all participants were asked to specify if they completely agreed, partially agreed, or disagreed. Among others, there were statements as the following: ‘I support the killing of women to save family honor’ or ‘The only way to prevent women from engaging in behaviour that is incompatible with society is with the threat of death and rebuke’. The participants were also asked what ‘family honor’ is from their point of view and how willing they were to participate in activities that oppose violence against women. In addition, interviews were held with a number of Social Affairs Department representatives, local women’s groups, and with the directors of feminist organisations.
The results show a high level of support for the killing of women among young people, while at the same time a large number of these young people are willing to engage in activities opposing the killing of women. Specifically, 52% of the respondents agreed with the statement that “Killing women to ‘save the honor’ of the family is beneficial in order to maintain a morally upright society.” 79% of the respondents had heard about activities or events opposing violence against women and roughly 55% have participated in such activities. These figures make the impact and presence of women’s work in the field evident and show the urgent need for feminist activism. This conclusion is supported by the relationship between the participants’ positions on the killing of women and their participation in activities opposing violence, as involvement in these activities lead to greater opposition to the killings. The highest levels of support among youth for honor killings were among the 15-16 year olds, and the lowest levels were amongst 17-18 year olds, especially those who had participated in activities opposing violence against women. As young people grow older and are thus exposed to more of these activities, their attitudes change and they become more opposed to the killing of women.
It is important, however, to note that the research reflects some contradictory attitudes. For example, among those who opposed the killing of women, some agreed that a woman that is killed is to blame for her murder. A significant proportion of participants approved of the use of threats of violence as a deterrent to behaviour that goes against society’s expectations, even though they expressed their opposition to such killings. Being against the killing of women does not necessarily reflect a liberal view towards women, and in fact such opposition often comes alongside views which are prejudicial and repressive. This makes field work and community activities all the more important, in order to change the concepts and attitudes towards Palestinian women held by youth.
Three main concepts of honor can be seen in the filled-in forms. The majority perceives it to be the women’s role to preserve the reputation of her family, followed by those who held it to be the joint responsibility of all family members both male and female to preserve family honor. It was the least popular view that negated and ridiculed the notion of ‘honor’ altogether.
One significant issue that the research brought to light is that national feminist organisations are working directly to combat violence and the killing of women, while local women’s associations are not working directly on this issue, but instead on underlying factors of this problem. For example, they focus more on empowering and encouraging women to take up roles of leadership in society. Departments of Social Affairs are working to counter violence, although their ability to do so is curbed by societal values and Israeli law.
This research has uncovered an urgent need for programs and activities that oppose both the idea and practice of violence against women and the killing of women. It also calls for the consolidation of existing work in the field because of the proven impact that it has upon the development of consciousness among Palestinian youth. The joint initiative, set up by Kayan and Baladna, strives to focus on resisting acts of violence against women by working directly with both youth and women, in order to confront society at large.
This project was funded by the European Union, and the contents of this report do not reflect the official opinion of the European Union
Translation from Arabic: Sinead Leach
Editing: Claudia Flach