On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 16 days of action
DWRC calls for protecting Palestinian working women from all forms of violence
On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 16 days of action, the Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center in Palestine calls for building alliances to put an end to practices that expose Palestinian women to violence in public life and the world of work. Violence against women is a violation of women’s fundamental rights and freedoms and is an obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace.
Violence against women is the most extreme form of discrimination. The “Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women” adopted by the United Nations’ General Assembly through resolution 48/104, affirms women’s right to equal protection under the law, the right to be free from all forms of discrimination and the right to just and favorable conditions of work, among other rights.
It is important to draw attention to the extent to which Palestinian working women are exposed to violence, while opportunities for Palestinian women to achieve legal, social, political and economic equality remain limited. On one hand, the measures and policies of the Israeli occupying power expose Palestinian women to many forms of violence. Citing but a few examples, Palestinian women lack a safe environment when commuting to and from work due to Israeli military checkpoints and periodic searches. Confiscation of Palestinian lands by the Israeli occupying power negatively impacts women workers in agriculture, forcibly driving them of their lands and eliminating opportunities for these women to earn a living. In addition, Palestinian women working inside Israel and Israeli settlements are subjected daily to exploitation and harassment without any kind of protection.
On the other hand, Palestinian labor legislation does not provide adequate protection for women against violence. For instance, while Palestinian Labor Law number 7 of the year 2000 prohibits discrimination in its article 100, forms of discrimination are not defined and the law does not stipulate deterrent penalties. In fact, the Palestinian labor law does not include provisions that would provide protection to women in workplaces against any form of violence by the employer, co-workers or customers.
A year 2011 study on gender-based violence in the workplace in the occupied Palestinian Territory conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Institute of Women Studies at Birzeit University, found that 23% of surveyed women were exposed to violence in workplaces. 34.7% of them said that they were harassed by clients, 32.2% by male co-workers and 6.5% by employers.
Women also suffer from many forms of psychological violence in workplaces; they are threatened with dismissal if they demand their rights, such as minimum wage, maternity leave, specified working hours, and the provision of an adequate working environment away from harassment. Employers sometimes refrain from hiring women to avoid providing maternity leave, and in 2016, only 38% of women working in the private sector obtained paid maternity leave. In many cases, Palestinian women are exposed to economic exploitation, especially when it comes to wages. Although a minimum wage was adopted, it is not implemented in many Palestinian establishments, especially where there is high percentage of women workers, such as garment and textile sector, small services sector, kindergarten sector, beauty sector and others.
In this context, we believe that particular consideration should be given to modifying labor legislation and adding legal dispositions defining various forms of violence, mechanisms for protecting women from violence and harassment in workplaces, and setting deterrent penalties. Thus, DWRC calls on social partners in Palestine to pay special attention in the labor law reform process to the necessity of adding legal dispositions that would provide protection to women, in line with international developments in this field, noting that the ILO is in the process of drafting an international standard regarding protection against violence and harassment at work.
DWRC also calls upon trade unions and employers to develop internal regulations in establishments to address violence in workplaces and ways to prevent it, in addition to drawing their attention to the importance of raising awareness about violence at work to create an enabling work environment for Palestinian women. Finally, DWRC calls on all concerned parties to join efforts to expose and stop Israeli violations, and break the silence about all forms of violence against Palestinian women in all fields of life.