FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Arabic Press Release Follows
Joining the international community and the growing international womens movement in celebrating International Women‘s Day on 8 March 2005, Al-Haq calls upon them to reflect on the struggle to promote the gender equality of women in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), and to promote and protect their fundamental rights under international law.
Whilst the protection of women in armed conflict has become of increasing concern to the international community, Palestinian women in the OPT remain among those most affected by Israels 38-year long occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Since the beginning of the current Intifada, Israel has increasingly relied on the notion of security and military necessity to justify repressive policies and discriminatory measures against the Palestinian civilian population. In this regard, systematic violations by Israeli authorities, such as movement restrictions, house demolitions, land confiscation, excessive use of force, extra-judicial killings and arbitrary detention, continue to disproportionately affect Palestinian women in their enjoyment of basic political, economic and social rights. Furthermore, the death, imprisonment or unemployment of many male members of Palestinian society has compounded the physical and psychological consequences of living in a patriarchal society, and have contributed to increased domestic violence. This was reiterated by the UN Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women in 2004, when she stated that decades of Israeli occupation of the OPT, use of force and stringent security measures have contributed to the creation of an atmosphere of legitimized violence particularly against Palestinian women.
As a state party to CEDAW Israel remains under the obligation to report on the implementation of the Conventions provisions for all women under their effective control and jurisdiction, including Palestinian women in the OPT. To date, Israeli authorities have chosen to ignore this obligation. Furthermore, as an Occupying Power, Israel must abide by international humanitarian law, which recognizes the need to give women in conflict situation additional special protection according to their specific needs. Nevertheless, Palestinian women continue to suffer from the consequences of unlawful Israeli practices and legislation, resulting amongst other things, in the lack of access by women in the OPT to appropriate health services, the poor conditions of detention and ill-treatment of Palestinian female prisoners, and the discriminatory impact of the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law on their family rights. On International Womens Day, a day where global action rallies around womens rights, Al-Haq urges the international community to take effective action to ensure Palestinian women their rights under international human rights and humanitarian law.
Whilst the West Bank and Gaza Strip are still under Israeli military occupation, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has a legal obligation to ensure that gender equality and respect for womens rights are integrated into policymaking, and in constitutional, electoral and judicial reform, and will ensure a wider participation for women at all levels, particularly in decision-making and public life. Al-Haq also calls on the PNA to take concrete measures to combat violence against women, and promote their fundamental rights. As noted by more than 180 governments at the 1995 Beijing Platform of Action, "achieving the goal of equal participation of women and men in decision-making will provide a balance thatis neededto strengthen democracy and promote its proper functioning". In line with Security Council Resolution 1325 which called for an increased representation of women in mechanisms of conflict resolution, Al-Haq urges the PNA to strengthen the involvement of Palestinian women in political negotiations process with Israel, to ensure that their needs and interests filter into the provisions of any future peace settlement.