REFORM organised a conference demanding new policies in justice, health, education and work sectors to combat gender-based violence
On Wednesday, 14th of September 2022, the Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development—REFORM, in partnership with Oxfam, held a national conference entitled: “The Impact of Cultural and Structural Values on Gender-Based Violence,” with the participation of the Palestinian Minister of Justice, Dr. Mohammad Al-Shalaldeh, and the Palestinian Minister of Health, Dr. Mai Kela, along with a number of those who provide services to women in government sectors and representatives of Palestinian civil society.
During his speech during the conference, the Minister of Justice, Dr. Mohammad Al-Shalaldeh, indicated that the National Authority is carrying out its duty to combat violence against women within its commitments to international laws, charters and internal laws, welcoming all the ideas presented at the conference.
The Palestinian Minister of Health, Dr. Mai Kela, welcomed the objectives of the conference, stressing that combating violence against women is an important issue that must be worked on at all levels. She pointed out that the Ministry has taken a set of measures to protect women from violence, including the provision of free treatment services for women who are exposed to violence, in addition to all health services required by the Ministry, according to the National Referral System “Takamul.”
Oxfam's Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territories, Mr. Shane Stevenson, indicated that this conference provides a space to discuss structural violence against women, especially with regard to protection mechanisms, and contributes to identifying policy solutions to confront violence against women and girls in Palestine. Mr. Stevenson emphasized Oxfam's commitment to gender justice, including combating gender-based violence, in partnership with Palestinian civil society organisations.
Chairman of the Board of Directors of REFORM, Mr. Mohammad Rabah, spoke about the importance of urging public institutions and civil society to work on policies together that seek to decrease the rates of gender inequality in all fields and create a new generation of young people free from the culture of male domination.
The attendees discussed four policy papers focusing on public policies combating gender-based violence. The first paper discussed the weakness of Palestinian legal procedures that deter perpetrators against women and the failure of Palestinian women to file lawsuits against perpetrators due to two main reasons, (1) the failure to approve the Family Protection Law since 2004 and (2) the failure to amend specific articles in the Criminal Procedures Law No. 3 of 2001.
As for the second paper, it addressed the weakness of the National Referral System “Takamul,” in which the paper referred to “restricted” mental health services, as researchers put it, due to the small number of psychiatrists working in the health sector.
As for the third paper, it discussed the Palestinian curricula and their response to gender, based on evidence indicating the dominance of masculine expressions in textbooks while disregarding the literary, scientific and struggle history of women in the curricula approved by the Ministry of Education in Palestine.
As for the fourth paper, it examined the economic violence that falls on working women within the settlements in the Jordan Valley, where they neither benefit from the Palestinian Labour Law nor the Israeli law, in addition to their exposure to exploitation and dependence.
Each policy paper was discussed with a panel in order to focus on each paper separately, along with a public discussion with the official or civil parties. At the end of the conference, a number of important recommendations were concluded as the following:
On the level of filing a public lawsuit in cases of domestic violence:
1. Adopting the Family Protection Law, as the draft of this Law provides articles that allow women and judicial institutions to file a case against the perpetuators on the grounds that this is a public right.
2. Amending articles 1, 3, 24, 25 and 33 of the Code of Criminal Procedure so that the prosecution of the Public Prosecution office becomes guaranteed after reporting incidents of violence by women organisations.
On the level of mental health services provided to women in the Ministry of Health:
1. Specifying the mechanisms for providing services mentioned in Article 15 of the National Referral System related to psychological first aid for women exposed to violence in order to assess their psychological situation, which is essential in most cases.
2. Reviewing training curricula for doctors, nurses and other health care workers to ensure a holistic approach when dealing with gender-based violence cases.
On the level of integrating gender education and respecting the representation of women in the curricula:
1. Presenting the new curricula to prior evaluation methods from an equality perspective, and conducting a “gender audit” of the approved curricula
2. Introducing gender training for all employees in the Ministry and its directorates along with teachers in schools.
On the level of protecting the rights of women working in Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley:
1. Launching new social protection policies for workers, including health and financial rights for workers in the unorganized sector.
2. Expanding technical and vocational education for women in Palestine, which will qualify them for stronger and more formal job opportunities in various labour markets.
This conference comes as part of the “Insijam” Initiative, implemented by The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development—REFORM within the “Naseej: Connecting Voices and Action to End Violence Against Women and Girls in the MENA Region” project, co-funded by Oxfam and the European Union. The Initiative aims to develop the capacities of participants in understanding the cultural and structural dimensions around societal and cultural contradictions that reduce gender-based violence and increase their skills to lead transformation processes in their communities and become agents of change in their communities. The Initiative also seeks to empower and increase the participation of young women and men in local and national efforts to combat prevailing social norms and gender-based violence.