As the world celebrates Women's Day, Palestinian women continue to struggle against many forms of oppression and injustice. In addition to the deprivation of their right to life, freedom of movement, liberty and security, Israel continues to implement a range of discriminatory laws, policies, and practices that feed into Israel's broader annexation strategy and intent to diminish the presence of the Palestinian population, including women, particularly in Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank. Such laws and practices include: discriminatory citizenship and residency laws, restrictions on family unification, administrative home demolitions, alongside increased measures of collective punishment, such as punitive residency revocations and punitive home demolitions.
In the Gaza Strip, the systematic oppression is reflected in the 12-year long closure imposed on more than two million Palestinians, which has turned Gaza into an uninhabitable open-air prison. The closure's gendered implications are numerous; adversely and undoubtedly impacting the lives of women and girls. Over the past 12 years, the closure has resulted in severe restrictions on women's access to healthcare, including sexual and reproductive health, to realizing adequate living standards for themselves and their families, including shelter, water, electricity, and sanitation. Palestinian women are also subject to Israel's aggressive, and sometimes, lethal attacks against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. This has been exemplified over the past year in the targeting of Palestinian civilians participating in the Great Return March protests calling for an end to Israel's occupation and closure and for the realization of their right of return. Since 30 March 2018, two women were killed and hundreds others were injured as a result of Israel's excessive use of force and lethal force against peaceful protesters, which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Israel's military occupation, discriminatory policies and practices fuel the rise of socio-economic and political violence against women. Israel's restriction and obstruction of the Palestinian economy in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem has impacted women disproportionately as it increases their vulnerability to economic injustice and creates further limitations to their access to the labor market. Women in East Jerusalem, and in Area C in particular, continue to suffer the dire consequences of coercive environments created by Israel, and the implementation of discriminatory policies and practices, such as home demolitions, forcible transfer and arbitrary arrests, in the absence of accountability. Since 1967, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been displaced as a result of military attacks, and Israel's unlawful administrative and punitive home demolitions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Displacement has been one of the gravest consequences of the occupation, where women, as a group, have been most impacted as they endure the brunt of additional social and economic costs of dispersal and home loss.
In addition, as of 2017, more than 10,000 Palestinian women have been detained by the Israeli authorities since 1967. Today, 47 women suffer unbearable living conditions in Israeli prisons, deprived entirely of basic human rights, including the right to privacy and the right to education. Nonetheless, human rights abuses against Palestinian women are not limited to women living in the OPT, but also include Palestinian women within the Green Line and the Diaspora, as they continue to suffer the gendered effects of ethnic discrimination, economic violence and forced displacement.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has not taken adequate and tangible measures to fulfil its obligations to ensure women's access to justice. In light of the PA's unprecedented 1993 amendment to the Palestinian Basic Law, acknowledging the right to equality, as well as the PA's 2009 ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), without reservation, the PA is obliged to abide by all obligations therein. However, the lack of political will to enforce these obligations at the legislative, policy and practical levels remains a major obstacle to achieving gender equity and justice. Al-Haq therefore urges the PA to commit to its position on acknowledging and warranting the rights of Palestinian women, including by implementing the provisions of CEDAW and other relevant international treaties. The PA must review and take all appropriate legislative and policy measures to enforce CEDAW, and to criminalize and enforce punishment on any form of discrimination against women.
As 2019 marks 52 years of prolonged Israeli belligerent occupation, it remains a major impediment to achieving gender equity and social and political justice in Palestine. In light of this and the above, Al-Haq calls on the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to fulfill their obligations under Common Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions, particularly, to ensure respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention in all circumstances, by demanding Israel to abolish discriminatory laws and practices imposed on Palestinians in the OPT. Al-Haq also calls on the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to demand Israel to immediately end the closure on the Gaza Strip and the prolonged occupation of the OPT. Al-Haq further calls on the international community to take effective and immediate action to pressure Israel to comply with its obligations as Occupying Power, and to hold it accountable for its persistent violations of women's rights.
It is high time that effective international and local efforts and measures are taken to genuinely realise Palestinians' right to self-determination, and end persistent human rights violations and discrimination against Palestinians, including Palestinian women.