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In light of Coronavirus Pandemic, PCHR Expresses Concern at Deterioration of Women’s Conditions in Gaza Strip

Ref: 97/2020

Date: 25 September 2020

Time: 11:00 GMT

 

As part of its ongoing support for women and children’s right to enhance their access to justice, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) follows up women’s conditions in the Gaza Strip after the Gaza Ministry of Interior declared on Monday, 25 August 2020, lockdown in the Gaza Strip and shutdown of governmental and private organizations to curb the coronavirus outbreak as first cases have been detected outside quarantine facilities.

As a result, Sharia courts were closed on 27 August 2020 as well as the Social Affairs Ministry’s al-Aman Shelter for gender-based violence (GBV) victims in the Gaza Strip as part of the measures to combat Coronavirus. According to PCHR sources, al-Aman Shelter has provided its 6 residents places to stay in that guarantee their safety and meet their needs.

The measures adopted to combat coronavirus spread have dramatically increased women’s family, social and economic burdens, as Gaza Strip has always suffered from catastrophic deterioration due to the 14-year long Israeli closure that led to unprecedented rates of poverty and unemployment.  The state of emergency and the outbreak of coronavirus in Gaza, the economic, living and humanitarian crises aggravated. Yet, the impact of these measures on women was significant by virtue of being the most fragile party in society and the most affected group in the community in times of disasters and crises.

Moreover, many reports and statistics published by women’s rights organizations indicated a significant increase in GBV rates.  The restrictions on movement have forced women and girls to stay in one place with those practicing violence against them and have made it more difficult for women to seek help.

According to PCHR’s investigations, on 10 September 2020, al-Aman Shelter re-opened after a case required its services. Since then, the total number of shelter residents increased to 15 women and 3 children, including several who were exposed to domestic, psychological, and sexual abuse.

In the meantime, al-Aman shelter is facing several challenges and obstacles that hinders their work and sustainability of their services to women victims of violence; as no medical examinations are available for incoming women and the shelter’s staff have difficulty travelling through the Gaz Strip governorates due to the impose segregation to curb coronavirus spread, which exacerbates the difficulties to operate the shelter in the current crisis.

On the other hand, the Coronavirus pandemic has obstructed women’s access to justice. The Sharia courts have resumed working in the Gaza Strip on 06 September 2020, for marriage contracts only, which affected the women’s ability to file lawsuits, fulfil judicial rulings, and to have rulings executed by the authorities. This, of course, has reflected negatively on concerned women’s living and psychological conditions, especially the suspension of child visitation and hosting rights, and alimony cases, which are considered of the most pressing needs for this group of women.

Through PCHR’s Women’s Rights lawyers’ work and follow-up on women’s issues and providing legal consultation through the phone for them, it was observed that many women complain about the closure of the Sharia courts and suspension of the judicial police’s work, especially that these women are in dire need to find solutions to their cases, especially the issues of alimony, seeing children and custody.

PCHR renews its support for women in the Gaza Strip, and confirms that they are suffering in cruel and exceptional circumstances that increased due to the coronavirus crisis. Due to its fear of continuing violence against women and girls, PCHR calls upon:

  • The governmental and non-governmental authorities to provide the necessary support and assistance to facilitate the work of shelters in the Gaza Strip and to ensure the safety of residents and staff.
  • The legal judiciary to realize the need for its operation under an emergency plan to ensure support and assistance to women and children in light of the possibility of this crisis continuing. This should include reactivating the judicial police’s role in implementing rulings issued by Sharia courts.