AL-HAQ PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
8 March 2006
Arabic release follows
On International Womens Day, Al-Haq would like to highlight the impact of violations of international law on Palestinian women in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Al-Haq further notes the troubling relationship between the deterioration of the general political and human rights situation resulting from the Israeli occupation and the increased violations of Palestinian womens rights.
Throughout the OPT, Israeli-imposed movement restrictions, including the Annexation Wall, have made it increasingly difficult for Palestinian women to access health care, education, employment, and their family or other social networks. Furthermore, women are frequently sexually harassed at Israeli military checkpoints. Each of these issues bear a direct relation to the well-being, status, and role of Palestinian women in their communities.
Israeli policy even undermines Palestinian womens right to marry and found a family, enshrined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which hold that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society . Since May 2002, Israel has prevented the unification of families where one spouse is a citizen or permanent resident of Israel or occupied East Jerusalem, and the other is a resident of areas within the OPT, excluding East Jerusalem. This affects the lives of thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children. With no legal means available to unify the family, its members are forced either to live separately from each other, or have one of the spouses stay unlawfully within Israel or East Jerusalem. This vulnerable status places an immense psychological burden on women while also further undermining their human rights, in particular their freedom of movement.
The dire economic situation created by the Israeli occupation and its associated matrix of movement restrictions and closures, coupled with the loss of male breadwinners to Israeli violence or detention, have increased the individual pressures faced by Palestinian women. Moreover, the disproportionate number of poor households headed by women in the OPT indicates a feminisation of poverty.
In a 2005 report, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Yakin Ertrk observed that the widespread death, imprisonment, or unemployment of many Palestinian men has increased poverty and social tensions that contribute to increased domestic violence. Al-Haq observes with alarm the escalation of domestic violence against Palestinian women. The decline of the economic situation increases pressures inside the home, making women more vulnerable to the heightened frustrations of male family members.
In addition, Al-Haq notes the increase of cases in the OPT of so-called crimes of honour, which refer to violence oftentimes murder committed against female family members who are perceived as having dishonoured their family by transgressing social norms. As observed by Yakin Etrk, women are all too often killed to cover up shameful crimes committed by male members of the family, including rape and other forms of sexual violence. Exacerbating this issue is the weak judiciary and inability of law enforcement officials to uphold the rule of law, leaving women without effective legal or physical protection.
Al-Haq is, however, encouraged by some positive steps towards the promotion and protection of womens rights at the national level, in particular the impressive participation of Palestinian women in the recent legislative and municipal elections. The measures adopted by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to effectively promote and protect the equality of women in Palestinian society through the incorporation of human rights standards into Palestinian legislation must be continued and supported by the newly-elected PLC members.
Like their male counterparts, Palestinian women will not truly be free and able to enjoy the fulfillment of their rights so long as they are living under Israeli occupation. Only with the end of the occupation and its associated rights violations will Palestinian society, including women, truly be able to thrive. However, women must play a central role in this process. As the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women affirms, the welfare of the world and the cause of peace require the maximum participation of women on equal terms with men in all fields .
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