What Gazan women are facing

It ain’t pretty. Years of isolation, the Israeli siege, Hamas and growing Islamic fundamentalism. The Guardian reports:

It is five years since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip and Israel tightened its siege of the territory. Many men became jobless overnight and it is women who have ended up bearing the brunt of their husbands’ frustration. Besides sticking to their traditional role of raising children, the blockade has compelled large numbers of women to become the breadwinners, while standing by their husbands, many of whom have… depression.

Violence against women has reached alarming levels. A December 2011… study… by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, PCBS, revealed that 51% of all married women in Gaza had experienced violence from their husbands in the previous 12 months.

Two thirds (65%) of women surveyed by the PCBS said they preferred to keep silent about violence in the home. Less than 1% said they would seek help. Mona, my 22-year-old interpreter, is astonished when I later ask what support there is for women such as Eman. “If her husband, or in fact anyone in the family, knew she had talked about this, she’d be beaten or killed. As for places for a woman to run to safety, I don’t know of any.”

At first glance, Eman has little in common with Mona apart from their age. The latter is fresh out of university, fluent in English and wears a canary-yellow silk blouse and tight jeans with a large designer handbag. Until a few years ago, women such as Mona were the norm in Gaza and few would question their dress sense and… independence.

Nowadays, with the blockade cutting off 1.6 million Palestinians from the rest of the world, conservatism dominates much of daily life.

It has also led to spiralling rates of unemployment among men – more than 45% of working-age people are without a job, one of the highest rates in the world. “The challenges of unemployment, fear of violence and restriction on movement can often mean that women and children are at the receiving end of men’s frustration,” says Ghada al-Najar from Oxfam Gaza. “There are many reasons why domestic violence is on the increase, including psychological trauma, the feeling of being trapped, and rampant… poverty.”


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