UN report: Widespread child abuse in Palestinian Authority

UNICEF reports large number of Palestinian Arab girls forced into child marriages, rampant beatings of children, and forced labor.

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Gary Willig,

Gaza children
Gaza children
Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90

A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund revealed rampant child abuse in the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Arab communities in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, including rape, forced marriages, and beatings.

According to the UNICEF report, "2% of all Palestinian women aged 15 to 49 years married before the age of 15." In addition, the report noted that nearly one quarter of Palestinian Arab women "marry" before the age of 18.

The percentage of forced child marriages was lower in communities outside the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip. "In Lebanon, 5.9 per cent of Palestinian refugee girls and 13.4 of Syrian girls aged 15 to 19 years are married. In the Syrian Arab Republic, 13 per cent of Palestinian women aged 20 to 49 years were married before the age of 18."

The report stated that Palestinian Arab children encounter high levels of violence both at home and at school in all regions. "In the State of Palestine, 70 per cent of students are exposed to violence at school. 6 A staggering 92 per cent of children aged 1 to 14 years experienced violent disciplining at home in the month prior to a 2014 survey and 27.4 per cent of males were exposed to severe physical punishment, compared with 18.9 per cent of females."

UNICEF noted that a large number Palestinian Arab children in Syria have been subject to forced labor, calling the child labor and forced marriages "coping mechanisms."

"Child labour and child marriage are increasingly used as coping mechanisms, especially in countries affected by the Syrian conflict."

Human Rights Voices (HRV), a human rights NGO, slammed the report as whitewashing rape and slavery.

"In the rest of the world, the phenomenon (of child marriages under the age of 15) would be called rape or sexual slavery," HRV stated. "UNICEF's effort to place the blame for Palestinian behavior on everyone but Palestinians, results in other shocking conclusions. According to the report, having sex with children is some kind of understandable "coping" mechanism."

HRV also slammed the report for blaming the "occupation" as the root cause of the violence Palestinian Arab children experience.