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1 Apr, 2016

UN Women’s Commission votes overwhelmingly to support Palestinian Women, only US and Israel vote against

United Nations, 23 March 2016, (UN News) – Civil society groups today urged Governments to redouble their efforts towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as the sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women completed its general discussion.

In other business on the penultimate day of its annual session, the representative of Thailand, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women” (document E/CN.6/2016/L.3).

Introducing the text, the representative of Thailand, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said most of its 23 preambular paragraphs and nine operative paragraphs were identical to the 2015 resolution, but some had been amended to reflect developments on the ground.  She looked forward to its adoption by consensus with the hope that it would contribute to alleviating the “disastrous” situation of women in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

By a recorded vote of 20 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States) with 11 abstentions, the Commission approved the draft resolution (click here to download).

Among other things, the resolution:

(+) Deplored the dire economic and social conditions of Palestinian women and girls in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the systematic violation of their human rights resulting from the severe impact of ongoing illegal Israeli practices, including the forced displacement and transfer of civilians, especially among the Bedouin community, and confiscation of land, particularly in connection with the construction and expansion of settlements and the wall, which continue to constitute a major obstacle to peace on the basis of the two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders, and the continued imposition of closures and restrictions on the movement of persons and goods, including the permit regime throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, which have detrimentally affected their right to health care, including access of pregnant women to health-care services for antenatal care and safe delivery, education, employment, development and freedom of movement,

(+) Expressed grave concern that Palestinian women and girls continue to be held in Israeli prisons or detention centres under harsh conditions including, inter alia, unhygienic conditions, solitary confinement, extensive use of administrative detention of excessive duration without charge and denial of due process, and noting that women and girls also face gender-specific challenges, including inadequate access to medical care, risks associated with pregnancy and giving birth in prison and sexual harassment,

(+) Stressed the importance of providing assistance, especially emergency assistance, to alleviate the dire socioeconomic and humanitarian situation being faced by Palestinian women and their families, and recognizing the essential efforts and support being provided by the United Nations agencies and other humanitarian aid organizations on the ground, particularly in response to the grave humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip,

Speaking on that item before the vote, the representative of Israel called the text an attack on his country and said it failed to hold the Palestinian leadership accountable, did nothing to help Palestinian women and only advanced the agenda of those who sought to use the Commission as a political platform.  Year after year, the Commission singled out one country only, with not a word to say about countries where women were treated like second-class citizens, unable to drive or leave the house without their husband’s permission.  He asked delegates to vote against the text and to commit themselves to ending an annual charade that endangered the Commission’s credibility by indulging the whim of one party.

The representative of Finland said European Union members represented in the Commission would abstain in the vote, adding that country-specific issues covered in the text should be dealt with in the General Assembly.

His counterpart from Kazakhstan, expressing support for Palestinian women and children, said he would vote in favour, as did the delegate from Indonesia, who regretted that many Palestinian women and girls were living in poverty and exposed to violence and discrimination on the part of the occupying power.

The representative of Switzerland, explaining his decision to abstain, said a number of important features had not been addressed in the draft and that the General Assembly was the more appropriate forum to address the topic.

Speaking after the vote, the representative of the United States said her delegation remained troubled by the Commission’s insistence in including political elements and one-sided resolutions in its work.  The United States was committed to supporting the Palestinian people, in particular women, through practical and effective means.  In that regard, she noted that her country was the largest bilateral donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), having provided some $390 million to the Agency in 2015.  She remained concerned about the humanitarian situation of Gaza and the fact that punishment of women for so-called “ethical crimes” continued to occur.

The representative of Japan also expressed concern about the plight of the Palestinian women; however, he said his delegation had abstained in the vote as the resolution was not well-balanced.

Also speaking after the vote, the observer for the State of Palestine urged the international community and the Commission in particular to continue its efforts in support of the Palestinian people.  The situation of Palestinian women and children had deteriorated to an alarming level as a result of the Israeli occupation and crimes committed by the regime.  Those practices remained a major obstacle to the empowerment of Palestinian women, she said.  Indeed, if Israel continued to attempt to silence Palestinian voices through its policies of oppression, discrimination and terror, those voices would only become louder and clearer.