Violence against women in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) does not only stem from deeply-rooted patriarchal norms, but also from the experience of the Israeli occupation. Existing literature shows a direct link between the increase in Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) and exposure to occupation-related violence. The more people are exposed to violence from the occupation or perpetuated by settlers, the more likely they will take it home with them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue of violence against women worldwide, as it did in OPT. Many civil society and women’s rights organizations have reported an increase in the number of phone calls and consultations sought by SGBV survivors during lockdowns. For example, the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), witnessed throughout the lockdown period an increase in the number of women who reported threats to their lives, particularly noticeable one month into the state of emergency.
A recent study conducted by the Oxfam-led Naseej project confirmed for instance that in East Jerusalem, 99% of respondents agreed that violence against women and girls (VAWG) increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as 84% of respondents from Jericho and the Jordan Valley, and 77% from Hebron. Such figures indicate that the levels of violence in these areas have been much higher in the year 2020. With the decreased capacity of service providers throughout the pandemic due to the restrictions of movement and lockdowns, the impact of VAWG will be harsher.
Women’s Rights Organisations in Palestine, including many of Oxfam local partners, are active in the battle to tackle violence against women. Their collective effort for example supported the development of a national referral system that keeps on improving. WROs are also engaged in different awareness-raising activities. Since 2004, they have in fact been strongly advocating for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to pass a Family Protection Bill that is crucial in the fight to end VAW in OPT. They provide services to SGBV survivors and refer them to get the specialized support they need. WROs continue to work with different segments of society in order to change harmful social norms that perpetuate and justify violence against women, raising awareness on the negative impact of VAW and on concepts of gender equality.
Thanks to the Naseej project implemented by Oxfam, local civil society organizations, and women’s rights organizations, we will be able to channel financial support to these actors to improve SGBV services and referral systems, to support their work on harmful social norms and their advocacy efforts to improve legislation to eliminate violence against women.