8 March 2017 marks International Women’s Day – a day that provides a valuable opportunity to remind decision-makers around the world that women must enjoy their rights fully and without discrimination. The theme this year is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. While striving for equality between women and men, International Women’s Day also serves as an occasion to celebrate women’s achievements within economic, political, and social spheres.
This year’s global marking of the International Women’s Day comes at a time when Palestinian women continue to endure ongoing violation of their rights, emanating from Israel’s occupation and stifling closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, continued deterioration of human rights within the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in general and in Gaza in particular has further undermined the already severe economic, social, and political situation for women who have been bearing the brunt of harsh circumstances for many years.
Poverty, unemployment, arbitrary arrest and killings are some of the many burdens that Palestinian women bear the brunt of. Israeli authorities continue to deprive Palestinian women of their right to freedom of movement, therewith also access to medical care and hospitals. The violations are systematic and encompass infringements on political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. This is particularly visible in Gaza where ten years of relentless closure and blockade have seriously eroded all aspects of Palestinian life, with women living under extremely dire conditions.
Since 2008, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) has documented the killing of 437 women by Israeli occupation forces (IOF), who also injured thousands of women. Also, 1,312 women in Gaza became the sole breadwinners for their families after losing their spouses in Israeli military bombardments and circumstances arising from closure and occupation.
Palestinian women are faced with the absence of the rule of law, particularly within the labor market where basic principles of the right to work are not fulfilled, where salary scales are based on gender and inequality and where working hours match neither national nor international standards.
Varying views on the role of women within Palestinian society have further complicated the situation. A more extreme perspective goes as far as to view a woman’s role as solely familial and reproductive – a perspective that can violate a woman's right to a dignified life. Palestinian women are directly targeted in family disputes, most notably in honor related crimes. Since 2009, around 48 women have been killed and 151 injured in family disputes and honor related crimes.
Despite harsh living conditions, Palestinian women represent strength and resilience. They are the cornerstone of Palestinian society, a driving force in education, and an integral part of the Palestinian labor force. Al Mezan would therefore like to celebrate Palestinian women on this International Women's Day, and use the opportunity to strongly condemn all violations of their rights regardless of the perpetrator.
Al Mezan calls upon the international community to uphold legal and moral obligations to take effective procedures to ensure that Palestinian women can fully enjoy their rights. Al Mezan also calls Israel, as a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to end violations against women.
Al Mezan calls on the Palestinian government to ensure protection and respect of women's rights at all times. Al Mezan reminds Palestinian political parties and civil society organizations of the importance to support women’s rights movement, as well as the importance of making sure that the efforts are firmly grounded in female leadership.