Arab World Witnessed Series Of Femicides In June This Year
The last 10 days of June have witnessed three heart-wrenching cases of femicide in the Arab world. The term femicide was first coined by the feminist activist Diana Russell in 1976. It refers to the “intentional” murder of women by a male figure, who is either a partner or an outsider. It is a form of violence against women; however, it is not the same as honor killing; for although it mostly involves the murder of girls, it is not always the case; as it is the murder of an individual by a family member to protect the family’s dignity and reputation from what they see as shame and dishonor. Besides, usually honor killings are related to religious beliefs or traditions.
According to sociology professor, Ibrahim Al-Zibin, violence against women is not confined to a specific region or culture, yet women living in conservative societies have higher chances of experiencing violence than others. And despite international efforts to combat violence against women, it is still a global threat that is even tolerated in some societies. Based on the statistics provided by UN Women, one in every 3 women worldwide, and at least 37% of Arab women, have experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their life. For instance, the Egyptian Edraak Foundation for Development and Equality issued a report earlier this year; claiming that Egypt has witnessed a “notable rise” in gender-based violence, with 813 cases of violence against women and girls in 2021, compared to 415 in 2020.
There is a growing debate nowadays over the increased number of femicide cases that take place due to rejecting marriage proposals. On June 20, Naira A, a 21-year-old university student, was stabbed to death in broad daylight in front of Al-Mansoura university by a 27-year-old man, Mohamed A., who asked her for marriage and got rejected. The murderer was sentenced to death, as a final decision, on July 6, by the Mansoura Criminal Court and Egypt’s Grand Mufti.
Three days later, the Arab world witnessed the murder of the Jordanian nursing student Iman Ersheid, who was shot dead in front of the University of Applied Sciences by a man who wanted to marry her. A message was found on the victim’s mobile from the killer; warning her that she would be killed as Egyptian Naira if she refused to talk to him.
Then, on Friday, June 24, Palestinian Raneen Sal’ous, a student at Al-Najah University, was found dead in her house courtyard in the village of Majdal Bani Fadil in Nablus. The girl is believed to be killed by some of her family members who wanted her to leave her fiancé and marry another wealthy relative.
In fact, these are not the only cases of femicide in the Arab world that are related to rejecting marriage proposals. In April 2021, a Kuwaiti woman was kidnapped and killed by a man whose marriage proposal was rejected. And before she was killed, the woman informed the authorities that the man has been threatening her life after her family rejected his marriage proposal.
Some researchers believe that the increasing number of femicide cases stems from the existence of a “shame-honor” society that fosters a culture of violence against women, and a society where Islamic extremism and misinterpretation are on the rise. And although Islam and true Muslims do not support such violence against women, violence has become always linked to “Muslim intolerance”, which has never been true nor just.
In fact, more attention should be given to violence against women in the Arab world, not only in terms of laws but also more awareness campaigns should be organized and launched to combat that widespread phenomenon and dis-link it to religious affiliation.