Calling it a “good first step,” international organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) praised Palestine on Thursday for repealing a law allowing rapists to marry their victims.
Although the law, which dates back to 1960, was officially repealed in March, HRW called on Palestine and other countries in the region to do more to stem violence against women.
“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,” Rothna Begum, HRW’s Middle East women’s rights researcher, said in a statement.
Begum called on other countries in the region, such as Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, and Syria, to also repeal similar laws.
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Palestine joins a handful of other Middle Eastern states that have recently repealed “marry-your-rapist” laws, including Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia.
The law represents a step in the right direction for a state with high levels of violence against women. According to statistics from UN Women, nearly one in three married women in the West Bank and half of women in the Gaza Strip have experienced domestic violence.
But Begum cautioned the Palestinian Authority could still do more to stem violence against women.
“A comprehensive domestic violence law and reforms to personal status laws are essential for demonstrating a commitment to women’s equality and protection,” she said.
Read More: Lebanese Women Dressed in Bloody Bridal Gowns Protest Rape Law
Ending gender violence will require more than just changing laws, other activists say.
Antonia Kirkland, legal equality program manager at women’s rights organization Equality Now, told HuffPost last year that the key to ending gender violence is “changing...social norms that say a woman or a girl isn’t as valuable as a man or a boy.”
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