This report explores violence against women (VAW) in the Gaza Strip following Operation Protective Edge. It highlights the relationship between VAWG in conflict-affected areas and levels of vulnerability of conflict and displacement. It also looks at the challenges organisations face in the provision of support services. The study recommends multidimensional responses that aim to change gender norms and attitudes and address unequal institutional structures.
The study is based on a survey and fieldwork (between April and July 2015). This involved: interviews with 440 women who responded to a quantitative questionnaire, and focus group discussions, roundtables and individual interviews with 332 women, 130 men, 7 key community informants and 28 members of civil society organisations.
- Types and forms of violence: husband and family-perpetrated violence inside the home is the most common experience of violence against women. Verbal psychological abuse – curses, insults, yelling and screaming – is the most prevalent type.
- Prevalence and incidence: 39.6 per cent of women interviewed have experienced at least one type of domestic violence since the end of Operation Protective Edge. Violence is usually recurring and more than 63 per cent of women report being subject to different types of abuse.
- Avenues of support: solving the problem themselves is the most frequent coping strategy. However, compared to previous years, the use of formal and informal support mechanisms has increased slightly.
- Perceptions of causes are dependent on the perpetrator: men are perceived to perpetrate violence against women in order to exert control and power and women as a result of jealousy and envy.
- Survey respondents recognise a clear link between political violence and VAW. Participants of the focus group discussions also cited the negative economic effects as a result of political violence, as a triggering factor. Survey data on the correlation between husbands’ feelings of stress and VAW further supports this. Displacement during hostilities is significantly correlated with higher likelihoods of experiencing domestic violence.
- A number of programmes/projects to address VAW already exist and are mostly focused on raising awareness. Following Operative Protective Edge more specialised projects have been offering psychological support, too. Much of this work involves partnerships between CSOs, CBOs and official authorities and institutions in the communities. Challenges include: funding for projects that do not match the need; budget limitations; unstable political situation leads to irregular funding streams; and a focus on workshops without any complementary activities that address triggers.
- Awareness-raising activities should be aimed at different groups, and involve both men and women. Activities that could reach a wider audience, such as through TV or dedicated radio shows, could be particularly effective.
- Traditional and religious leaders should be included in the programmes to correct wrong concepts and interpretations of women’s rights and VAW.
- Psychological, financial and legal support and economic empowerment need to complement activities challenging norms and behaviours in order to provide women with real choices to help themselves.
- The legal marriage age should be raised and advocacy against early marriage should be strengthened; early marriage was perceived by study participants as one of the reasons for conflict between spouses and domestic abuse.
- Efforts should be undertaken to reach the hard-to-reach populations in hard-to-access areas.