Trapped by society’s demands and expectations, 4 out of 5 women in Gaza have experienced some form of gender-based violence, new research by Islamic Relief reveals.

Aisha’s father forced her to marry her cousin. She is verbally abused in front of her own children on a daily basis.

“I had a very miserable childhood,” says the 28-year-old. “My father used to beat me up and then he married me off to my cousin without my consent, who in turn is treating me badly and scolds me in front of my own children.”

Her story is not uncommon.

A 2017 UN study revealed that almost two-thirds (61%) of women in Gaza believed the longstanding blockade and electricity cuts contributed to a higher rate of domestic violence against them. The living conditions in Gaza have been undermined by the blockade and exacerbated by recurrent hostilities and now the Covid-19 crisis.

Women’s roles in Gazan society are very clearly defined, with deep-rooted social stigma and their relationship status defining every facet of their lives. While married women may have some form of social protection acquired by virtue of marriage, women who are abandoned, divorced or widowed are a vulnerable social group who suffer not only from domestic violence, but also from social stigma.

This research highlights the reality of women’s lives and the types of violence to which they are exposed.

The results from our research are shocking. 4 in every 5 women reported that they were physically abused, while 93% had suffered or still suffered from verbal harassment. The long term implications meant that 60-70% of respondents suffered from nightmares, loss of appetite, difficulty in managing stress and depression. More than 40% said they had suicidal thoughts.

While women are legally allowed to file for divorce, divorced women tend to be blamed for broken relationships and to be considered a burden on their families. Many choose to stay in unhappy marriages in an effort to avoid the stigma that divorce will bring. Women face near impossible choices regarding remarriage and keeping custody of their children.

Islamic Relief is fully committed to upholding the dignity of all people and eradicating poverty and suffering through promoting justice, equity and the equal value and importance of women, girls, men and boys in all the countries where we work. We endeavour to integrate gender perspectives that promote justice for males and females into all our humanitarian, development and advocacy work in a faith literate and culturally-sensitive way.

We are committed to involving partners and stakeholders, including survivors, and ensuring that our programmes incorporate ongoing learning that brings together our policy priorities and processes. We are committed to bringing together the voices of Palestinian women and survivors of gender-based violence to direct our engagement and advocacy at national, regional and international level.

Islamic Relief continues to stand in solidarity with Palestinians and works for a better future for women in Gaza, helping them take steps towards a life free from gender-based violence.

Learn more in our research paper, ‘Gender-based violence against women and girls in Gaza’, and donate now to support our work.

*Name changed to protect her identity