November 25, 2013
In 1999, the UN designated 25th November of each year as the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This designation comes as part of the UN efforts to curb violence against women in the world.
Over the past years, Palestinian women have been extensively subjected to violence due to the exceptional conditions they live under. They have been subjected to violations of human rights by Israeli occupation forces, which have made them endure very severe living conditions, and on the other hand, they have been subjected to violence practiced against them by the society.
This year, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women comes while the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, especially in the Gaza Strip, is deteriorating. Israel has maintained punitive policies against the Palestinian civilian population, especially the closure policy and restrictions on the right to freedom of movement, which have impacted Palestinian women, who are also subjected to domestic violence.
The Israeli-imposed closure on the Gaza Strip that has been ongoing for the seventh consecutive year has led to very severe living conditions for the Gaza Strip’s population, including women. Israeli authorities have continued to close all border crossings of the Gaza Strip, undermining the economic, social and cultural rights of about 1,6 million Palestinians, and denying them their basic needs. The closure has led to deterioration of the economic conditions in the Gaza Strips, and consequently poverty rates among Palestinian families have mounted to 38.8%, including 21.1% of the families that live in extreme poverty, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics’ data in 2013.
The current deterioration of economic and social conditions denies Palestinian women their various rights, including the right to adequate living conditions, and complicates their lives since they are especially vulnerable to the deterioration of the human rights situation. Consequently, the social life of women has been impacted, and domestic violence against them has escalated.
The suffering of Palestinian women because of Israeli violations of human rights is not limited to facing the tragic impacts of the closure, as they are subjected to killings, injuries, detentions and home demolitions. According to PCHR’s documentation, this year, Lubna Muneer al-Hantash, 21, was killed by Israeli forces, in a crime that reflects their disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians. On 23 January 2013, Israeli forces positioned at a military checkpoint near al-'Arroub College in Hebron opened fire at Palestinian civilian vehicles killing al-Hantash with bullets to the head and the chest.
On 27 September 2013, Randa Abdul Hafez al-Qassir, 49, from Rafah, died of wounds she had sustained on 01 May 2001 when she was near her home, because of which she had been suffering from paralysis.
According to PCHR’s documentation, 11 Palestinian women have been wounded by Israeli forces in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since the beginning of 2013.
At the level of domestic violence against women, 9 Palestinian women have been killed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since the beginning of 2013. Three of these women were killed for the so-called "family honor," while the other six ones were killed in incidents related to the phenomenon of misuse of weapons and security chaos.
Palestinian women have continued to suffer restrictions imposed by the society, for which PCHR has repeatedly expressed concerned. For instance, some provisions of the Education Law No. 1 of 2013 seek to impose segregation between the two genders at schools, including banning the employment of male teachers at female schools.
Additionally, some domestic laws that have many flaws, and which violate international human rights standards, especially those related to the minimum age of marriage, are still in force. The marriage of two minors in the northern Gaza Strip has recently drawn the attention to the inherent flaws in relevant laws and the need to amend them to conform to international human rights standards.
In light of the continuous suffering of Palestinian women, PCHR stresses that the population of the Gaza Strip, especially women and children, is badly in need for support by the international community, which has several obligations, including compelling Israeli occupation forces to respect human rights and stop policies that undermine or violate these rights. PCHR calls also for ending the Palestinian political split and activating the Palestinian Legislative Council as a step towards confronting domestic violence against women and ensuring consistency of laws related to women with relevant international standards.
In this context, PCHR:
1. Calls upon the international community to promptly take an action to pressurize Israel to respect human rights, be committed to the international humanitarian law and stop violations against Palestinian civilians, especially the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip which deprives them, including women, of their rights that are ensured under the international law;
2. Calls upon the two Palestinian governments in Gaza and Ramallah top take necessary action to stop domestic violence and prosecute the perpetrators of crimes against women;
3. Calls upon the two parties to the political split to consider the interests of the Palestinian population, and immediately end the split and activate the legislature to endure enacting and amending laws related to women to be consistent with relevant international standards.