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Palestinian Women and Girls Must be Protected

Tuesday, 12 October 2010 13:37
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REF.: 08.2008E

08 March 2008


Al-Haq takes the opportunity of International Women’s Day to highlight the plight of Palestinian women in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). As part of a civilian population living under occupation, Palestinian women share not only in the everyday abuse of their fundamental rights inherent in Israel’s 40-year occupation, but also suffer the denial of basic rights and protections within their own society.

Israel’s continuing occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip has become intrinsically linked to the denial of the basic rights and protections guaranteed a civilian population under international human rights and humanitarian law. A pervasive system of movement restrictions, including the Annexation Wall, Israeli-only roads and currently over 500 physical barriers to movement, prevent access to education, employment and medical care. Particularly egregious are numerous instances of women being forced to give birth at checkpoints.

Palestinian women and girls are, along with the rest of the Palestinian population, regularly subjected to harassment, intimidation and ill-treatment at Israeli checkpoints scattered throughout the West Bank, including around East Jerusalem. Such treatment constitutes an assault on their dignity and security of person in violation of both international human rights and humanitarian law. Palestinian women and girls have also not escaped the violent consequences of Israel’s repeated military incursions and attacks in the OPT. Since last International Women’s Day, 24 women have been killed by Israeli Occupation Forces, including 5 girls. Since the beginning of the second intifada 288 women have been killed, including 105 girls. Many of these killings amount to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, mandating individual criminal responsibility.

Israel’s occupation does not however, exempt the Palestinian authorities, be they the de facto Hamas government of the Gaza Strip or the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank, from upholding, promoting and protecting women’s rights. Of particular importance, all legislative and institutional developments must fully recognise and enforce the equal status of women in the enjoyment of all fundamental human rights.

While all violence against Palestinian women and girls is deplorable, of immense concern is the continued perpetration of “honour killings,” more appropriately described as femicide. In the past year, 17 women and girls have been the victims of femicide in the OPT. Due to inadequate law enforcement and judicial procedures, as well as a lack of pressure from within the community, all forms of violence against women and girls occur with impunity.

On International Women’s Day, Al-Haq therefore calls for:

  • the international community to compel Israel to immediately cease all acts that violate the fundamental rights and protections guaranteed to women and girls under international human rights and humanitarian law.
  • the international community, in accordance with Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to prosecute individuals who have committed, ordered or knowingly failed to prevent, the wilful killing of Palestinian women and girls.
  • the PNA to ensure that all legislation contains provisions for the protection and promotion of the equality and fundamental rights of women and girls.
  • the PNA to adopt thorough and effective law enforcement and judicial procedures, to investigate, prosecute and punish individuals found to have committed acts of harassment, violence and/or femicide against women or girls.
  • the PNA to issue an unconditional formal declaration that it will adhere to all the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and be held accountable for breaches thereof.
  • Israel, the PNA, the de facto Hamas government and the international community to comply with the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

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