[Reader-list] Why violence against women is widespread

Pawan Durani pawan.durani at gmail.com
Wed Mar 17 12:31:43 IST 2010


OPT: Why violence against women is widespread

Photo: Suhair Karam/IRIN
A woman cries after the loss of one of her sons in Kamal Adwan
Hospital in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian women face a range of
GAZA CITY, 16 March 2010 (IRIN) - Nahla*, aged 30, from Bureij refugee
camp in central Gaza, said she was physically and mentally abused for
more than 10 years by her husband before being granted a divorce three
months ago.

Fear and cultural factors prevented her from seeking help from women’s

“I never tried to go to the police to complain about my husband's
criminal acts, because he threatened to kill me if I did,” Nahla told
IRIN. “And I never went to complain to any women’s rights
organizations because I didn’t think they would be able to solve my
problem - and I was also scared that my husband would find out.”

Rights activists blame the economy, Hamas-Fatah tensions and the
conflict with Israel for the rising number of cases of violence
against women. Disinterest in domestic abuse by the judicial
authorities and the apparent impunity of violators have made matters
worse, they say.

A March 2010 report by the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of
Armed Forces (DCAF) explores women’s perceptions of the organizations
or legal bodies designed to protect them, based on focus group
discussions and interviews with women and girls in the West Bank and
Gaza between June and November 2009.

 The levels of violence against women in the Gaza Strip are higher
than they were in previous years, and compared to other countries the
rates are certainly higherSocial stigma

“Women and girls revealed that their feelings of insecurity are
related to the ongoing conflict, society’s tacit acceptance of
violence against women, their own lack of awareness of service
providers, and their distrust of the available services,” the report

“Women and girls explained that they were reluctant to resort to
women’s organizations, human rights organizations, or security and
justice providers, such as the police and courts, because of the
strong social stigma attached to reporting abuse.”

The report said women recommended more awareness-raising events and
education campaigns for all segments of society about women’s rights
and the institutions in place to uphold them. They also felt better
training was needed for members of the social services, women’s and
human rights organizations and hospital staff and police - in addition
to increased female representation in these organizations and
political life in general.

AWRAD survey

A 2008 survey of 2,400 Palestinians by Ramallah-based independent
research centre Arab World for Research & Development (AWRAD) found
that 74 percent of Palestinians did not know of a women’s or human
rights organization working in the field of women’s rights; and 77
percent of respondents believed that laws needed to be enacted to
protect women from domestic violence.

Nahla’s brothers called the police to report the fact that she was
being beaten regularly and kept locked in her home without access to a
telephone to make contact with her family. The police arrested her
husband, kept him in custody for five hours and then released him, she

The police then took Nahla to her mother’s house, where she stayed
until she was granted a divorce by a local court, which ordered that
her five children remain with their father. Against his will, the
court has given her the right to visit her children one day a week.

“My heart is torn apart because I live away from my kids, but my life
with him was hell,” Nahla said. “I could never go back.”

Gaza study

In December 2009, a report by the Gaza-based Palestinian Women’s
Information and Media Center (PWIC) noted an upsurge in violence
against women since Israel imposed an economic blockade on the Gaza
Strip in June 2007, after Hamas became the de facto authority there.

Photo: Tom Spender/IRIN
A study found that 77 percent of women in Gaza had experienced
violence of various sorts (file photo) The study - based on 24
workshops and interviews with 350 other women in the last quarter of
2009 - found that 77 percent of women in Gaza had experienced violence
of various sorts, 53 percent had experienced physical violence and 15
percent sexual abuse.

"The levels of violence against women in the Gaza Strip are higher
than they were in previous years, and compared to other countries the
rates are certainly higher," Huda Hamouda, director of PWIC, said.
“Women are exposed to hardships in every sphere, be it financial,
social, political or lack of security.”

She said widespread unemployment was one of the biggest contributors
to household stress, and in turn male violence towards females.

"It's hard to imagine a family living in dignity when they live on
less than three dollars a day. Many say they don’t feel respected and
suffer depression. Poverty affects education and public participation.
It limits their social standing,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Commission on the Status of Women, a commission of the
UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), on 12 March approved a text
on the status of and assistance to Palestinian women, to be sent to
ECOSOC for adoption.

The draft resolution expresses concern about the “grave situation of
Palestinian women in the occupied Palestinian territory, including
East Jerusalem, resulting from the severe impact of the ongoing
illegal Israeli occupation and all of its manifestations”.

(*not her real name)

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