On Sunday morning, 03 December 2017, The Women’s Unit at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a workshop titled as, “Problems and Challenges in Protecting Women from Violence” in Lighthouse Restaurant Hall in Gaza City as part of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign to End Violence against Women and Girls.
Lawyer Raji Sourani, PCHR’s Director, opened the workshop, which he emphasized is part of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign to End Violence against Women and Girls. Sourani added that this campaign stresses the close connection between human rights and the violence against women and girls that is considered among the most prevailing and continuous human rights violations. He emphasized that PCHR gives special attention to women’s issues, and violence against women cannot be overlooked without focusing on women’s local status in Palestine and their suffering from the occupation. He stressed that Women’s voice is very important and decisive, and that their role is not symbolic but crucial and practical in all that is going on in the Palestinian arena.
Mona Shawa, Head of PCHR’s Women’s Unit, facilitated the workshop and highlighted its importance, shedding light on the most significant challenges and problems facing those active and involved in the field of protecting women from violence.
In her presentation, her Excellency Minister of Women’s Affairs, Dr. Haifa al-Agha, talked about the role of Women’s Affairs Ministry in protecting women from violence and future of the 2011-2019 strategic plan to combat violence against women. She added the strategic plan adopts the overall objective that aims at strengthening the rule of law fair for women in addition to improving the institutional mechanisms of dealing with women subject to violence for achieving a society based on the principles of equality and justice for all its individuals. She also said that the Ministry strives for abolishing Article 99 of the Penal Code, which gives the victim’s family the right to give up her right in addition to freezing or amending Article 308 of the Code, which makes it possible for a rapist to escape punishment if he marries his victim. She stressed that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs seeks for enacting a family protection from violence law in the near future.
Heba al-Zayyan, Director of UN Women Programs- Gaza Office, reviewed the role of UN Women in protecting women from violence in Palestine as it is the main supporter for women’s issues, adding that UN Women was established to accelerate the achievement of a tangible developmental progress when it comes to women’s needs at the international level. She also said that UN Women focuses on priority areas relevant to equality between both genders and works through its partnership with official governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations, which is funded by the UN Women, on the case management interventions at the legal, social, psychological and health levels. She added that as the violence against women is complex, the intervention is complex as well.
Hanadi Skeik, Director of the Social Affairs Ministry’s Al-Aman Shelter for Women Subject to vVolence, highlighted their experience in protecting women from violence over the past 6 years since the Shelter’s establishment in 2011. She also reviewed the mechanisms used to provide protection for women seeking protection and the most prominent services provided for women subject to violence during their stay at al-Aman Shelter.
In her presentation titled as “ Protection of Women from Violence: Legal Challenges”, Hanan Mattar, Lawyer at PCHR’s Women’s Unit, reviewed the system of Palestinian laws and historical context of Palestinian legislations from the Ottoman Rule, British Mandate and till the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994 and First Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in 1996. She also talked about the impact of the Palestinian political division on the legal status and disruption of the PLC that prevented unification of the laws; particularly the Penal Code and Family Law, which both significantly affect the life of Palestinian women. She stressed that Palestinian women are in desperate need for enacting a family protection from violence law.
At the end of the workshop, the participants concluded the following recommendations:
- The women’s and human rights movement shall support the Palestinian reconciliation efforts, hoping to take steps in the right direction for boosting the Palestinian reality in general and women’s reality in particular;
- A family protection from domestic violence law should be enacted if the PLC convened;
- Laws applicable in the West Bank and Gaza Strip should be unified;
- Current Laws shall be amended for the interest of women;
- Awareness campaigns on violence against women and girls should be increased and men should be involved in such campaigns as well;
- Networking and cooperation between the Women’s Affairs Ministry and Women’s and human rights civil society organizations shall be enhanced; and
- Women’s access to services provided for them by the human rights, women’s and community-based organizations shall be facilitated.