Everyday hero: Access to justice for Palestinian women
One in two women — half of women in Gaza who have ever been married have been subject to a form of violence in the home and a third of women from the West Bank have experienced violence at home, according to UN Women. Yet, 65.3% of women in the region who experienced domestic violence have chosen to remain silent.
Through our Programme of Assistance to Palestinian People, UNDP, works with local NGOs, partners, and UN organizations to strengthen rule of law and increase women’s access to justice in the region.
We work with partners like Amal Siam, who is the Head of Women’s Affairs Center in the Gaza Strip.
“I hope I can resolve all women’s problems in the Gaza Strip. I want to give them and their families the dignity and society we all dream of and deserve. My work targets all forms of violence against women be it political, economic, social and domestic. We still live in a patriarchal world where women are seen as inferior to men. My message is clear. We say NO to all forms of violence against women; YES to a zero-violence environment; yes to a wide participation of women in all walks of life. As women, we see the potential of Palestinian national unity and the development of laws that support equality of both genders.”
Less than one percent (0.7%) of women trust in authorities and institutions for assistance. There are only four anti-violence shelters in the region, which serves 2.2 million women — half of the region’s population. Centers like the one that Amal heads, run by women, are the first point of entry for women who need help.
This April 2017, a One Stop Centre to assist survivors of violence was set up in Ramallah as part of a joint UN Women, UNDP and UNICEF programme. The 24-hour facility is the first of its kind. It provides various services that survivors of violence need — medical, legal aid, temporary shelter and police protection — all under one roof. Since April 2017, it has already served more than 400 women and juvenile survivors. (more information)
To increase protection for women, we strengthen rule of law. We work with partners like Lieutenant Colonel Wafa Muammar, who is the Head of the Palestinian Civil Police Family and Juvenile Protection Unit in Ramallah, located in the West Bank.
Together, we work to strengthen the capacity of Family Protection Units to respond better to cases of violence and recruit more women to become civil police officers, who are the front lines for reducing violence against women.
There are no specific laws or provisions in Gaza and the West Bank that protect women against domestic violence and sexual violence. In the absence of specific laws, ten specialized Family Protection Units (FPU) operate in each of the ten districts of the West Bank — with a specific mandate to address violence against women and ensure the rule of law is upheld, according to UN Women.
“Being a mother of four, and the highest-ranking female officer in the Palestinian police force, an occupation predominantly considered a man’s profession continues to be a challenge. Violence is a global issue that needs to be addressed collectively at the national and international levels. Establishing legislation and practical measures that protect victims’ rights, raising awareness of the community to combat gender based violence are all ways of fighting it. My message is never be silent after an attack. Speak up because silence is the aggressor’s weapon that drives him to carry on with his aggression” — Lieutenant Colonel Wafa Muammar
Family protection centers are in high demand and often overstretched. Lieutenant Colonel Wafa Muammar and other law enforcement have their work cut out for them. They are expected to serve nearly 2.2 million women — half of the population.
The share of the population living in poverty is more than twice as high in Gaza as in the West Bank, where violence against women is also much higher than in the West Bank.
When a case arrives in court, it’s up to judges like Judge Iman Nasser Al Deen, Judge Supreme Court (presiding judge at Court of Cassation) in Ramallah, West Bank to deliver justice for survivors of violence.
“Through my career, I insisted to work in the judiciary to prove women’s efficiency in assuming such positions, to issue rulings in accordance with the law, to protect freedoms and human rights, and lay the principles of justice and equality before the law. One of the most significant challenges is changing stereotypes about how to deal with issues of violence against women, especially ones related to honor killings. We must work together to combat all negative beliefs that undermine women and their potential and ability to reach positions of power. These negative beliefs are contrary to the principles of human rights, Palestinian laws and the provisions of the Constitution.”
Story written by: Lei Phyu/ UNDP
Interviews and photos: Dania Darwish and the team at UNDP Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People
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