25 November is universally recognized as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This year, the United Nations (UN) will mark the day by launching a 16-day campaign with the title “Leave No One Behind – End Violence against Women and Girls”. This campaign is an extension of the “Unite to End Violence against Women” annual initiative that was launched by the UN Secretary General in 2008. This year’s campaign aims to promote the dialogue about gender-based violence by raising public awareness about the urgency to reduce violence against women and girls. The campaign ends on the 10th of December, which coincides with the Human Rights Day.
Palestinian women and girls are exposed to serious human rights violations, including to their right to life. House demolitions disproportionately affect Palestinian women, who often suffer from forcible displacement, homelessness and loss of privacy during displacement. In addition, women are often victims of complex family situations that emanate from the aggravating humanitarian conditions. In the largely patriarchal society, women and girls are also affected by household violence as well as political violence, which often lead to the loss of family members.
The implications of the restrictions on freedom of movement are severe, with women often deprived from access to medical treatment or family life. According to Al Mezan’s monitoring and documentation, ten women have died since the beginning of 2017 after being denied access to hospitals and appropriate medical treatment outside of Gaza.
Hundreds of women and girls were killed, while thousands suffered from physical and psychological distress, as a consequence of Israel’s frequent military attacks on the Gaza Strip.
In this context of protracted closure and violence in Gaza, efforts to challenge violence against women are hindered by conflict. According to Al Mezan’s documentation, 455 women were killed in Gaza since the beginning of 2008, while 1,415 women were affected by the loss of family members who contributed to the family’s income. Furthermore, 28,283 women were displaced after their homes had been destroyed in military attacks, their suffering further exacerbated due to the very slow reconstruction process.
The unprecedented unemployment rates in Gaza, which affect women disproportionately, have pushed many into abject poverty. Women often bear the burden of social and economic difficulties facing them and their families.
Palestinian women are also faced with serious challenges within the Palestinian society. Eleven years of political division and disrespect of rule of law have had a very negative impact on living conditions and social and economic development in Gaza, with women and girls being among the most vulnerable to such challenges. The protracted political divide has contributed to gradual erosion of the perceptions of women’s role in society during the past years. Domestic violence often goes unreported. Particularly worrying is the recurrence of honor-related murder crimes. Since the beginning of 2008, Al Mezan has documented 23 cases of honor related killings in Gaza.
Field data indicates that efforts to end violence against women are slowed down by numerous obstacles and challenges: the continued Israeli occupation, the internal Palestinian division, the accumulation of economic problems including lack of job opportunities and the high unemployment rates, and marginalization of vulnerable groups and people with special needs.
Al Mezan calls on the international community to uphold its moral and legal obligations towards the civilian population in the occupied Palestinian territory, especially women and girls. International community must take effective measures to protect the rights of Palestinian women and girls, especially the right to life. International community must ensure that violations of human rights against Palestinian women are investigated properly and perpetrators are held to account.
Al Mezan calls on the Palestinian authorities to promote and protect gender equality, to eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination against women, and to empower women to address gender-based violence and discrimination without impediments. The foundation of a just and prosper society depends on its treatment of and the role played by women, both of which must be promoted and advanced. Women must be protected from persecution and discrimination at all times, and governments must invest particular efforts to ensure that legal protection is effectively observed to end violence against women in par with the relevant international human rights standards.
Al Mezan calls on the Palestinian Authority, representing the State of Palestine, to uphold the international obligations emanating from human rights instruments, especially the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and, in this context, to take urgent measures to bring perpetrators of honor killings to justice.