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Source: UN Women
22 May 2017



The reality of Palestinian lives — including gender relations and gender dynamics —has been carved by the prolonged Israeli occupation. The occupation has become the central structural framework of analysis for all elements of political, economic, and social life in Palestine. IMAGES findings in Palestine must be understood within this contextual framework.

Inequitable gender attitudes remain common in Palestine, although women hold more equitable views than men do. For example, around 8o per cent of men and 6o per cent of women agree that a woman's most important role is to take care of the home. Men with greater wealth, with more education, and whose fathers participated in commonly feminine household work hold more equitable attitudes, however. Notably, there is no difference in gender-related attitudes between younger and older men.

At the same time, there are many signs of more equitable views. For instance, some three-quarters of women and half of men agree that a married woman should have the same right as her husband to work outside the home. Most respondents of all genders reject the idea that it is more important to educate boys than girls when resources are scarce, as one among other signs of equitable views in Palestine. In practice, there are also many men contributing in commonly feminine household work, as well as sharing decision-making authority with women. Fewer than zo per cent of men and women think that it is shameful when men engage in caring for children or other domestic work.

Several men (interviewed for the qualitative portion of the study) who had been imprisoned by the Israeli security forces for political reasons pointed to the extraordinary ability of women to carry a double or triple burden at home during the men's imprisonment. The ability of women to simultaneously manage the household, care for children, and earn an income gave these men greater respect and appreciation for women. This newfound respect contributed to some men carrying out commonly female household tasks, such as feeding, bathing or changing babies' diapers. In the cases of these political prisoners' families, the change in women's roles during the husband's absence was met with more appreciation and a reconsideration of women's abilities to perform different roles. At the same time, this led to a revaluation of men's domestic work, reflected in the willingness of many ex-prisoners to share household work with women.

There is strong agreement among men and women that gender equality has not been achieved in Palestine. Three-quarters of men and nearly 87 per cent of women agree with the statement,"We as Palestinians need to do more work to promote the equality of women and men".

Fifty-nine per cent of women and 42 per cent of men believe that women should have greater representation in political authority. By contrast, however, a majority of both men and women agree that "women are too emotional to be leaders".

Twenty-five per cent of male respondents and 22 per cent of female respondents reported witnessing their mother being beaten by their father or a male relative during their childhood. More men than women had experienced physical violence from someone in the household during their childhood. Men faced more bullying and other forms of violence in school than did women, with 57 per cent of men saying they were physically punished by a teacher (compared with 3o per cent of women), and 24 per cent of men saying they were bullied at school (compared with 14 per cent of women).

Nearly all respondents hold fears related to personal or family safety. Furthermore, some 7o per cent of women and 78 per cent of men worry about not being able to provide their families with the necessities of daily life.These fears and worries are experienced alongside the constant threat imposed by the occupation on many aspects of Palestinian life.

There are significant differences between men's and women's agency and autonomy with regard to arranging and planning a marriage. Forty-four per cent of men said that they had the greatest say about their own marriage arrangements, compared with only five per cent of women. About 25 per cent of men and 39 per cent of women said that their marriage decision was shared between the husband and wife. Furthermore, the majority of men (88 per cent) and women (82 per cent) think that marriage should be ultimately the couple's decision, not the family's decision.

Women's participation in higher education has been increasing in Palestine, as has women's participation in the paid labour market, compared with previous decades. Still, the division of work within the household falls sharply along gendered lines. This can be linked to the worsening political and economic situation under Israeli occupation. Women reported high levels of involvement in nearly all types of domestic work, but men mostly concentrated on activities outside the home. Men whose fathers participated in commonly feminine household work, as well as men who were taught to do this work as children, are far more likely to contribute to the household work within their own marriages.

While women carry out the majority of daily caregiving of children, men express a desire to be more involved. One encouraging finding is that more than 6o per cent of fathers in the sample reported talking with their child about important personal matters in their lives; this points to an emotional intimacy not always associated with masculine behaviour.

Most respondents — 65 per cent of men and 55 per cent of women — reported having experienced one or more specific forms of occupation-related violence and adversity within the past five years. Men were more likely than women to report having lost land; having been harassed by soldiers or settlers, detained, or injured; having had difficulty accessing health services; and having lost work or educational opportunities due to the occupation, but occupation-related violence and difficulties are very common among all respondents.

Nearly one in five men (17 per cent) said they had ever perpetrated an act of physical violence against a female partner. Twenty-one per cent of women reported ever having experienced such violence. Men who witnessed violence against their mother as children and men who experienced physical violence in their childhood homes are statistically significantly more likely to report perpetrating intimate partner violence in their adult relationships.


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