oPt

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Al Mezan demands that duty bearers respect and protect Palestinian women’s rights

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25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. To mark this day, since 2008, the United Nations has launched a 16-day campaign to combat violence and discrimination against women, urging governments and institutions to dedicate resources to ending discriminatory acts against women everywhere. This year’s campaign, titled ‘UNiTE to End Violence Against Women’, will conclude on International Human Rights Day (10 December).

This occasion comes at a time of continued suffering in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), especially for Palestinian women, who are subject to an array of violations and abuses both by the Israeli occupation regime and within the Palestinian community.

Israel’s violent actions against women in the oPt continue to escalate. During the large-scale military offensive against the Gaza Strip in May 2021, 38 Palestinian women were killed, 397 were wounded, and 1,603 were forcefully displaced. Further, according to Al Mezan’s documentations, of the 740 residential units that were destroyed, 114 are owned by women. The Israeli offensive also caused significant damages to civilian infrastructure such as water and electricity supplies as well as industrial and commercial facilities, including 31 stores owned by women, who have lost their only source of income. More women have also lost their husbands, fathers, or brothers, who, as is typical in patriarchal societies like that in Palestine, are often the sole breadwinners.

In the context of Israel’s 14-year illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian women are among those who bear the highest burden. The closure impacts every aspect of life in Gaza, and exacerbates inter alia unemployment, poverty, food insecurity and lack of access to medical care.

Palestinian women also suffer from severe restrictions on freedom of movement, discrimination in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and the inability of the Palestinian Ministry of Health to tackle the pandemic. Al Mezan’s documentation shows that in 2021, Palestinian women in Gaza filed 124 complaints challenging Israel’s rejection or delay in issuing medical permits for treatment in the West Bank. Sixty-two permits remain obstructed by the Israeli authorities.

Relatedly, violence against Palestinian women—either due to domestic abuse or deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions—has intensified under the quarantines imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It has been reported that all types of violence has increased, especially in families living under the poverty line, in families dependent on women for income, and in families with women as daily laborers. In 2021 alone, the absence of the rule of law has led to the death of at least six women in the Gaza Strip and the injury of 27 others.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Al Mezan reiterates its calls for the international community to protect women in the oPt and uphold its legal and moral obligations to put an end to systematic violations committed by the Israeli forces against women.

It must also end Israel’s impunity, ongoing closure of the Gaza Strip and prosecute all those suspected of committing gross and systematic violations of international law in the oPt. Al Mezan further urges Palestinian authorities to strengthen their efforts to ensure the respect for international human rights law obligations, including those enshrined in the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Accordingly, Palestinian authorities must review all relevant policies and laws aimed at protecting women; enhance and safeguard women’s rights; and support projects and institutions that empower women.