31 March 2005
Israel/Occupied Territories:New report reveals misery of Palestinian women's lives under occupation
Israeli and Palestinian authorities must take urgent steps to end the suffering of Palestinian women living under occupation and conflict, Amnesty International said today (31 March), as it published a new report on the issue.
The human rights organisation is calling on Israel to lift blockades and restrictions in the Occupied Territories and to ensure prompt passage and access to adequate medical facilities for pregnant women and others in need of medical care.
Israel is also called on to stop the widespread destruction of Palestinian homes and property.
The report does not just blame Israel's military occupation for abuses of women's rights, but also criticises Palestinian law enforcement and judicial institutions as unwilling to enforce the law.
The Palestinian Authority is called on to assume full responsibility for safeguarding women's rights, including by repealing discriminatory legislation.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
"Palestinian women's suffering has been two-fold: they have borne the brunt of conflict and decades of Israeli occupation and in Palestinian society they are also denied full rights and protection.
"Israel's military machine has chewed up Palestinian women for far too long, while the Palestinians in their turn must now rise to the challenge of properly protecting women's rights."
The 36-page report,Conflict, Occupation and Patriarchy: Women Carry the Burden, examines the impact on women of spiralling violence and unprecedented levels of restrictions on movement imposed by Israel on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, as well as increased violence against women in Palestinian family life.
The report looks at five main issues:
- military checkpoints, blockades and curfews
- abuses of women in Israeli detention
- domestic violence, 'honour' crimes and other gender crimes
- house demolitions and destruction of other property
- discriminatory laws
The report highlights the way that scores of women have been forced to give birth at some of the hundreds of Israeli military checkpoints, sometimes actually by the roadside.
Several women have lost their babies because Israeli soldiers denied them passage.
For example, Rula Ashtiya was forced to give birth on a dirt road by the Beir Furik checkpoint after Israeli solders refused her passage to Nablus hospital.
Her baby died a few minutes later:
"At the checkpoint there were several soldiers; they ignored us.... I crawled behind a concrete block by the checkpoint to have some privacy and gave birth there, in the dust, like an animal. I held the baby in my arms and she moved a little but after a few minutes she died in my arms."
Kate Allen said:
"Israel as an occupying power has an obligation to ensure adequate medical care for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and especially pregnant women, yet Israel has consistently disregarded its obligation and the army has often impeded access for Palestinian women, children and men to healthcare facilities."
The report also highlights the fact that the Israeli army has destroyed over 4,000 homes and vast areas of agricultural land since the end of 2000.
This has left tens of thousands of Palestinians - most of them women and children - homeless and destitute.
In one case last year, two women -one aged 85, the other 65 - had their home in Rafah demolished by an Israeli army bulldozer while they were trapped inside it. They managed to escape only after neighbours broke open the rear of the house.
The report's criticisms of the Palestinian Authority include the fact that domestic violence and 'honour' crimes are almost never investigated.
Although there are no reliable statistics, violence against women in the family, including sexual abuse, rape and so-called 'honour' killings, have reportedly increased in the Occupied Territories during the past four and a half years, but few of those responsible for such killings have been brought to justice.
Additionally, Palestinian women and girls at risk of being killed by their families have often been unable to escape to safety because of blockades and restrictions imposed by the Israeli army.
Kate Allen added:
"The Palestinian Authority must take measures to eradicate violence against women and to prevent, investigate and punish abuses against women."
View the full report online...
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