Adalah and Kayan: Joint Statement on International Women’s Day


Today, on 8 March 2024, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. This year, the day comes at a time when Palestinian women in Gaza, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel are confronting War, severe state violence, repression, racism and persecution by the Israeli military and other authorities, respectively. As the unfolding genocide in Gaza tears through all aspects of life, the impact on women and girls is catastrophic.


Palestinian women and children in Gaza bear the brunt of Israel’s ruthless military assault on Gaza, unprecedented in its scale and severity. UN Women data shows that an estimated 9,000 women have been killed in Gaza since October and many more remain under the rubble. Every day the war continues an average of 63 women  and 37 mothers are killed. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a recent US congressional hearing said that over 25,000 women and children have been killed in Gaza. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 6 children under the age of 2 is acutely malnourished in Northern Gaza. Their struggle to survive is being severely hampered by forced displacement, lack of food and water, and the destruction of infrastructure. Women face additional gendered rights violations, including the absence of proper health care for an estimated 50,000 pregnant women due to the destruction of medical facilities, including a lack of access to postnatal medical care for women and their babies, and a scarcity of sanitary products and hygiene facilities. Each day, around 180 women are giving birth in Gaza without adequate anesthesia, painkillers, or even water. Basic needs for women are not available, such as sanitary pads and women are resorting to using fabric, strips of tents, and taking birth control medication to cope with the deficient and unsanitary conditions. Additionally, these unsanitary conditions have led to diseases and infections for women.


Palestinian women, citizens of Israel (PWCI), are facing totally different obstacles; they are being subject to a wave of grave political repression and state violence. Since the beginning of the war on 7 October 2023, Adalah has documented an unprecedented surge in arrests of PWCI and Palestinian women residents of Jerusalem for expression-related offenses. These women are subjected to harsh conditions in Israeli detention facilities marked by both verbal and physical abuse. Large numbers of women are experiencing persecution for voicing any opposition to the war; dozens of women students at Israeli universities are facing unjust disciplinary actions, while female professionals, including doctors, nurses, artists, and professors, have been dismissed from their workplaces amid public campaigns of incitement launched against them on social media.


Kayan received 630 calls through its helpline after October 7th. These calls came from women (73%) and men (27%) who were concerned about violations regarding their labor rights. Multiple callers, particularly women, reported that they were threatened at work by their Jewish Israeli colleagues who pressured them to declare support for the war, express support for Israel, and/or refrain from showing sympathy for Gaza. Furthermore, the Jewish Israeli colleagues threatened to reveal private information about their sexual orientation or about their romantic relationships to the family of the Palestinian employee. These kinds of threats, harassment, and coercion create an extremely hostile work environment and in some cases may jeopardize the lives and safety of the employee.


Online, Palestinian women citizens of Israel report harassment by both Jewish-Israeli citizens and government officials. Doxing campaigns against Palestinian activists, citizens of Israel, have become a widespread phenomenon that jeopardize the safety of these individuals. Israel’s far right-wing, mega-nationalist Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, for example, has on multiple occasions posted the photos of Palestinian women being held in police custody in front of Israeli flags, with the clear aim of circulating their images and publicly humiliating them online.


Israeli universities and colleges have targeted Palestinian students, citizens of Israel, with harsh disciplinary measures for expressing their opposition to the war. Young women are disproportionately affected, constituting a clear majority of those targeted. As documented by Adalah, through its legal representation of the students over the last four months and its overall monitoring, an overwhelming 79% of disciplinary measures have been taken against women students (a total of 88 students), compared to 21% against male students (23 students). In addition, Palestinian women students are subjected to extreme campaigns of slander and incitement on various platforms by Jewish-Israeli student groups, which go completely unpunished. This selective prosecution and persecution inflict considerable harm, disrupting the academic progress of Palestinian women students. Beyond the immediate impact on their education, these disciplinary measures violate fundamental rights protected by several international instruments, including the ICCPR and CEDAW which Israel has ratified, particularly the rights to freedom of expression and access to education, thereby perpetuating a cycle of inequality for a group already vulnerable to systemic discrimination and state oppression – Palestinian women who are citizens of Israel.


Of the 271 cases of arrest, interrogation, or “warning talks” documented by Adalah since 7 October, at least 68 (27%) involved PWCI. Many of these women are young, often students, and have no previous criminal record. The overwhelming majority of these arrests are related to their social media posts and are based on charges of alleged “incitement to terrorism” or “identification with a terrorist organization”, under Israel’s draconian 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law. In Adalah’s view, most of these posts are protected speech, fall far below any criminal threshold, and are very far from amounting to terror. Some of these young women detainees were held in detention for prolonged periods, which are being repeatedly extended by the courts, often in the extremely overcrowded security wards of Israeli prisons.


During the arrest process, many of these women also endured police brutality, including blindfolding, violent arrest raids carried out in the middle of the night, and strip searches. Adalah has  has raised serious concerns about extreme violence used by Israeli law enforcement authorities during arrests and in detention facilities (report). Many PWCI were placed in security wards, where conditions are much worse than in areas for the general prison population. They were and are denied the right to contact their families, and the families are barred from providing personal items, including clothes and medications. These women may leave their cells for only one hour per day and are denied access to adequate or sometimes any sanitary products. Food is inadequate in quantity and quality. The Israel Prison Service imposes these conditions based on often unsubstantiated and discriminatory grounds amounting to political persecution.


UN experts have expressed serious concern regarding the arbitrary detention of hundreds of Palestinian women and girls, including human rights defenders, journalists, and humanitarian workers from Gaza and the West Bank since 7 October. They also raised concerns about inhuman and degrading treatment in prison, denial of sanitary products, food, and medicine, as well as reports of severe beatings and sexual violence. Palestinian women detained in Gaza were allegedly held in a cage in the cold and rain, without food on at least one occasion.


All of these acts violate international human rights law, including the ICCPR, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders, commonly known as the Bangkok Rules. These norms and guidelines emphasize the imperative to address the specific vulnerabilities and requirements of women detainees to safeguard their safety, health, and access to essential services.


This International Women’s Day Adalah and Kayan call for an end to the war and to the occupation. We also call for the provision of unhindered humanitarian aid to Gaza and for accountability. We underscore that all states have a duty to prevent, and not to aid and abet, the crime of genocide, and we call on the international community to uphold to their legal obligations.


Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash 90.