ICHR presents Shadow Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

 

ICHR presents Shadow Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

 

Geneva / Ramallah: As part of its efforts to use international mechanisms for promotion of human rights, on 9 July 2018, the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) submitted its parallel report to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on the consideration of the initial report submitted by the State of Palestine.

Ms. Lubna Katbeh, ICHR Commissioner, provided a briefing of key points of ICHR’s report. ICHR’s report includes several issues, which are not highlighted by Replies of the State of Palestine to the list of issues and questions in relation to its initial report. ICHR’s report reviews legislative aspects, policies, practices of duty bearers, and how consistent these practices are with CEDAW. According to ICHR, United Nations conventions, including CEDAW, cannot be applied to the Gaza Strip and Area C due to stalled national reconciliation effort and continued Israeli control over the Palestinian territory. The report of the State of Palestine does not refer to the fact that human rights conventions, including CEDAW, are not binding on all official and unofficial bodies in the State of Palestine. A legal framework is not in place to regulate the integration of international conventions into the national legal system. International conventions have not been published in the Official Gazette of the State of Palestine. The State report does not demonstrate if the government has taken any measures or actions to implement CEDAW and invoke its provisions before national courts.

ICHR comments highlighted the continued enactment of legislation, which impinged on women’s rights, in violation of CEDAW and other human rights conventions. Of particular note, the provisions of the Law by Decree on the High Criminal Court derogate from guarantees of a fair trial, enshrined in the effective Law of Penal Procedure. For example, the Law by Decree extends the pre-trial detention period from 48 hours to four days. The Law by Decree also vests the Court of Appeals with the power to examine an appeal without summoning relevant parties, rather than in their presence, violating the right to a fair trial, right to liberty and security of person, and equal access to justice for women.

According to ICHR, the recent government decision on early retirement (i.e. retirement before the officially established retirement age is attained), has affected many women, including women with disabilities. The decision is in conflict with the government’s stated efforts to empower women to hold public office.

The report of the State of Palestine does not outline policies or measures, which ensure that women with disabilities benefit from the principle of substantive equality embodied in CEDAW. According to reports released by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, integration of girls with disabilities into mainstream schools is as low as 1 percent of the total student population.

ICHR report spotlights that the budget allocations for women empowerment and protection programmes of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs were not increased. In spite of the widening gaps demonstrated by women's status indicators in Palestine, the Ministry’s budget accounts for 0.04 percent of total current expenditures. This reflects low government spending on programmes targeting women in comparison to other programmes of the general budget.

The report of the State of Palestine does not provide a diagnosis of the role of law enforcement officials in encroachments on the safety of women and girls. In the years following the internal Palestinian political divide, ICHR received many complaints on violation of women’s physical safety by law enforcement officials. In 2017, ICHR received 45 complaints from women and girls, claiming that their right to physical safety was violated. These included 13 complaints in the West Bank and 32 in the Gaza Strip.

In the view of the ICHR, the actions provided by the State of Palestine’s Initial Report and Replies to the list of issues and questions are not sufficient to ensure promotion of women’s participation in the political life. To achieve a broad representation of women in public life, the State of Palestine should guarantee full equality between men and women in exercising political and economic powers. Women should be empowered to participate fully and equitably in decision making process on all levels, both nationally and internationally. Hence, women can take part in accomplishing the goals of equality, development and peace-making.

ICHR report stresses the lack of adequate information as to whether the State of Palestine effectively adopts educational and media programmes, which help to put an end to existing prejudices and practices that hamper full enforcement of the principle of social gender equality. In its Replies to the list of issues and questions in relation to its initial report, the State of Palestine does not indicate if it has implemented policies and measures to change traditional attitudes, adjust social and cultural patterns of behaviour among men and women, and eliminate prejudices as well as traditional and all other practices based on inferiority or superiority of a particular gender or outmoded stereotypes of the roles of men and women.

In relation to the government effort to reduce unemployment in general, and among women in particular, ICHR report highlights the lack of a comprehensive plan to address high unemployment rates among women. Partial solutions will not contribute to promoting women’s participation in the labour market. Combined with women’s low participation in the labour market, unemployment rates continue to be on the rise. In 2017, female participation in the labour force was 19.0 percent of the total of the female working-age population. By contrast, men’s participation in the labour force was as high as 71.2 percent.

In its report, ICHR expressed concern about invoking the concept of “religious and cultural identity”, cited by the Decision 4/2017 of the Supreme Constitutional Court. The decision provides for the “precedence of international conventions over domestic legislation”, but places restrictions on the principle of equality under national legislation on marriage, family rights, child marriage, guardianship, custodianship, polygamy, inheritance, family responsibilities, and provisions which consolidate women’s subordinate status to men.

In conclusion, Ms. Katbeh presented a set of ICHR recommendations, particularly in relation to publishing CEDAW in the official Gazette , accession to the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, and initiation of a serious dialogue to amend and align domestic laws with international conventions, including CEDAW.