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Gaza Men Beat Women; UN Blames Israel

Domestic violence is up in Gaza, Muslim activists blame Israel. The UN follows suit.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 3/18/2010, 9:21 PM / Last Update: 3/19/2010, 6:44 AM

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Violence against women has long been common in Gaza: a Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Center study found that between half and three-quarters of Gaza women are subjected to physical violence from male relatives.

A recent report created by IRIN, which provides “humanitarian analysis” in coordination with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, quotes Gaza women in putting the blame for the high rates of violence on Israel. “Widespread unemployment was one of the biggest contributors to household stress, and in turn male violence against women,” the article said in the name of a Gaza women's center worker. The worker accused Israel of causing high unemployment with an "economic blockade."

IRIN also quotes the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which last week drafted a resolution expressing concern over “the grave situation of Palestinian women in the occupied Palestinian territory... resulting from the severe impact of the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation and all its manifestations.”

Blame the occupation
The draft resolution blamed Israel for gender inequality in Muslim society, saying, “The Israeli occupation remains the major obstacle for Palestinian women with regard to their advancement, self-reliance, and integration in the development of their society.” It also called on Israel to “facilitate the return of all refugees and displaced Palestinian women and children,” a reference to the Arab demand that descendants of Arabs who fled Israel during the War of Independence be allowed to “return” to Israel.

The IRIN article bears a picture not of violence within Gaza society, but rather, of a Gaza woman mourning her son who died in an Israeli counterterrorist operation.

While IRIN and the Gaza activists it quoted sought to blame Israel for the violence against Gaza women, stating that rates of violence are “certainly higher” in Gaza than elsewhere, the violence reported in Gaza is not dissimilar to that in surrounding Muslim countries.

In Egypt, an estimated 33 percent of women are beaten by their husbands, and an even higher number report being beaten by their fathers or brothers. Studies show that approximately 40 percent of married Turkish women are beaten by their husbands. The frequency of domestic violence is similarly high in Lebanon and Jordan.