There are many issues around gender equality in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: poverty and strongly gendered social roles have increased the burden of women’s household responsibilities; after the deaths or imprisonment of their male relatives, women have been obliged to take on additional roles as heads of households; women’s rates of participation in politics and in the labour market remain very low, despite their extremely high levels of education. However, the results of a review of the most recent literature seem fairly unequivocal – the two key issues receiving the most attention are women’s access to healthcare; and gender-based violence.
Women’s health and access to healthcare
Since the mid 1990s, access to health facilities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has become increasingly unpredictable, due to increasing mobility restrictions, including checkpoints and the separation wall. These mobility restrictions have reduced access to health facilities for both staff and patients in a significant way. For pregnant women, this had resulted in decreased access to antenatal and post-natal care and an increasing number of home deliveries, induced deliveries and deliveries at military checkpoints.
Most commentators agree that Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip face a triple challenge to establishing their rights: as Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation which controls every aspect of their lives; as women living in a society governed by patriarchal customs; and as unequal members of a society subject to discriminatory laws. One aspect of this situation is that women are subject to violence committed by the Israeli state or its agents, as well as to violence within the family.