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Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
1. The Committee considered the fourth and fifth reports of Israel (CEDAW/C/ISR/4 and CEDAW/C/ISR/5) at its 961st and 962nd meetings, on 18 January 2011 (see CEDAW/C/SR.961 and 962). The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/ISR/Q/5, and the responses of Israel are contained in CEDAW/C/ISR/Q/5/Add.1.
2. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for its fourth and fifth periodic reports, which were well structured and in general followed the Committee’s guidelines for the preparation of reports, with references to the previous concluding observations, although they lacked references to the Committee’s general recommendations. The Committee regrets that the reports did not provide information on the enjoyment by all women, including women living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, of their rights under the Convention. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for its oral presentation, the written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by the Committee’s pre-session working group, as well as the supplementary written information.
3. The Committee commends the State party for its multi-sectoral delegation which included a high number of women and men representing ministries and other governmental bodies with responsibilities for the implementation of measures in the areas covered by the Convention. The Committee appreciates the constructive dialogue that took place between the delegation and the members of the Committee, but it regrets that a significant number of its oral questions were left unanswered.
C. Principal areas of concern and recommendations
6. The Committee recalls the obligation of the State party to systematically and continuously implement all the provisions of the Convention and views the concerns and recommendations identified in the present concluding observations as requiring the priority attention of the State party between now and the submission of the next periodic report. Consequently, the Committee urges the State party to focus on those areas in its implementation activities and to report on actions taken and results achieved in its next periodic report. The Committee calls upon the State party to submit the present concluding observations to all relevant ministries, to the Knesset, and to the judiciary, so as to ensure their full implementation.
Applicability of the Convention
12. Recalling its previous concluding observations (CEDAW/C/ISR/CO/3, para. 23), the Committee regrets the State party’s position that the Convention does not apply beyond its own territory and, for that reason, the fourth and fifth periodic reports did not provide any information on the status of implementation of the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Committee notes, however, that the delegation acknowledged that the State party had certain responsibilities, including in the context of humanitarian law, and that the delegation, while maintaining its position, provided responses to some of the questions raised by the Committee concerning the situation of women in the Occupied Territories. The Committee reiterates that the State party’s view that the Convention is not applicable in the Occupied Territories is contrary to the views of the Committee and of other treaty bodies, including the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee against Torture and also of the International Court of Justice in its Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which have all noted that obligations under international human rights conventions as well as humanitarian law apply to all persons brought under the jurisdiction or effective control of a State party and have stressed the applicability of the State party’s obligations under international human rights conventions to the Occupied Territories.
13. With reference to paragraph 12 of its general recommendation No. 28 on the core obligations of States parties under article 2 of the Convention, the Committee urges the State party to reconsider its position and to give full effect to the implementation of its obligations under the Convention as well as its obligations under humanitarian law with regard to all persons under its jurisdiction or effective control, and to provide in its next periodic report detailed information on the enjoyment by all women, including, if still relevant, women living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, of their rights under the Convention. The Committee encourages the State party to strengthen its dialogue with the Palestinian authorities in respect of the implementation of the provisions of the Convention.
Participation of women in the peace process
14. The Committee is aware that the persistence of conflict and violence hinders the full implementation of the Convention. In this regard, it welcomes the fact that the State party has recognized the importance of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security in various domestic and international forums, and that the 1951 Equal Rights for Women Law was amended in 2005 following this resolution to include section 6C1, mandating that there must be equal representation for women in bodies that shape national policy, including peacebuilding negotiations.
15. With reference to its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/ISR/CO/3, para. 22), the Committee calls on the State party to strengthen its efforts towards conflict resolution, in line with relevant United Nations resolutions, and to fully involve all women concerned in all stages of the peace process, including through their equal opportunity and participation in the decision-making processes.
Visibility of the Convention
16. The Committee notes with concern that there is inadequate knowledge in society in general, including among all branches of Government, of the rights of women under the Convention, the Convention’s concept of substantive equality of women and men and the Committee’s general recommendations. The Committee is also concerned that the State party did not provide information on cases in which the provisions of the Convention had been directly invoked in court. It is further concerned that women themselves, including those in the Occupied Territories and women belonging to minority groups, are not aware of their rights under the Convention and thus lack the necessary information to claim them.
17. The Committee recommends that the State party take all appropriate measures to:
(a) Ensure that the Convention is sufficiently known and applied by all branches of Government, including the judiciary, as a framework for all laws, court decisions and policies on gender equality and the advancement of women;
(b) Ensure that the Convention and related domestic legislation be made an integral part of the legal education and training of judges, magistrates, lawyers and prosecutors so that a legal culture supportive of the equality of women with men and non-discrimination on the basis of sex is firmly established in the country;
(c) Enhance the awareness of all women, including Israeli Arab women and women belonging to other minority groups, of their rights through, inter alia, legal literacy programmes and legal assistance; and
(d) Ensure that information on the Convention is provided to women, especially Palestinian women in the Occupied Territories and those from minority communities, through the use of all appropriate measures, including the translation of the Convention and the present concluding observations into Arabic.
National machinery for the advancement of women
18. The Committee welcomes the continued activities of the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women, including training activities, surveys and awareness-raising campaigns, the recent strengthening of the Authority as well as the doubling of its budget for 2011. However, the Committee remains concerned that the Authority, which has multiple functions, may not have sufficient power, visibility, and human and financial resources for the effective promotion of the advancement of women and gender equality. It also notes with concern that the State has not adopted a national plan of action for the advancement of women.
19. The Committee calls on the State party to:
(a) Continue to strengthen the Authority and ensure that it is provided with the power, location within the executive branch of Government and necessary human and financial resources to enable it to carry out effectively the promotion of the advancement of women and gender equality throughout all sectors of Government; and
(b) Develop and adopt a comprehensive national plan of action for the advancement of women in line with the Convention and take due consideration of the Committee’s recommendations in the formulation of this action plan, ensure its effective implementation, including monitoring and regular evaluation of strategies and measures used in its implementation, and establish a regular reporting system to the Government and the Knesset.
Violence against and harassment of women in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
22. While noting the complexity of the local administration, the Committee notes with deep concern that Palestinian women and girls continue to suffer from violent attacks from both State (Israeli soldiers) and non-State (inter alia settlers) actors, as well as all other forms of violence within their communities, including violations of the right to life, physical, psychological and verbal abuse, and sexual harassment. The Committee also notes with serious concern that such cases are rarely documented, prosecuted and punished. The Committee welcomes the establishment of an exceptional committee within the State party that provides financial assistance for battered women who wish to leave the shelters and start independent lives, but it regrets that Palestinian women do not have access to financial assistance from this committee. Furthermore, the Committee notes with concern that the restrictions on movement in the Occupied Territories as well as regular harassment by settlers of both children and teachers on their way to and from school have had a negative impact on Palestinian women and girls’ access to education and to their health.
23. The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Take immediate action to prevent human rights abuses and violations against women and girls in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to protect them against such acts, including at checkpoints;
(b) Provide these women with effective access to legal remedies and ensure that such cases are fully and promptly investigated and that perpetrators are brought to justice, regardless of whether they are State or non-State actors;
(c) Ensure the provision of adequate compensation and, where appropriate, reparation to the surviving victims;
(d) Ensure that Palestinian women who are victims of violence have access to a sufficient number of shelters as well as financial and legal assistance, where necessary;
(e) Take the necessary measures to ensure that Palestinian women and girls can enjoy their right to education and their right to health, including safe and unhindered access to schools and to health facilities and resources; and
(f) Establish a constructive dialogue with the Palestinian authorities on the issues relating to violence against women under their responsibility.
24. The Committee notes with concern that the 2003 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), as amended in 2005 and 2007, remains in force and has been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. The Committee reiterates its concern that this Law, which suspends the possibility, subject to limited and subjective exceptions, of family reunification, especially in cases of marriages between an Israeli citizen and a person residing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, has recently been extended for another six months and thus continues to adversely affect the marriages and right to family life of Israeli Arab women citizens and Palestinian women from the Occupied Territories.
25. Recalling its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/ISR/CO/3, para. 34), the Committee calls on the State party to balance its security interests with the human rights of persons affected by such policies, and to reconsider them with a view to facilitating family reunification of all citizens and permanent residents. To this end, it calls on the State party to bring the 2003 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) of 31 July 2003 into line with articles 9 and 16 of the Convention.
Freedom of movement
26. The Committee is deeply concerned that the severe restrictions on the freedom of movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, especially through the wall, checkpoints, restricted roads and permit system, create hardship and have a detrimental impact on the enjoyment of human rights by Palestinian women, in particular their rights to freedom of movement, family life, work, education and health.
27. The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Review these measures to ensure that restrictions on freedom of movement are not systematic, are not applied in a discriminatory manner, and do not lead to segregation of communities; and
(b) Ensure that Palestinian women enjoy their human rights, in particular their rights to freedom of movement, family life, work, education and health.
28. While noting that the State party delegation referred in the dialogue to national security concerns, the Committee is seriously concerned that continued demolitions of property, homes and schools as well as forced evictions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in East Jerusalem have a serious impact on the development and advancement of Palestinian women, including refugee women, as well as Israeli Arab women, and on their enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
29. The Committee urges the State Party to:
(a) Revoke its policies allowing for and refrain from the practice of forced eviction and house demolitions, which negatively impact on the physical and psychological well-being as well as the development and advancement of Palestinian and Israeli Arab women; and
(b) Review its housing policy and issuance of construction permits to Palestinians to ensure that Palestinian and Israeli Arab women can enjoy all their fundamental rights and freedoms, particularly their right to adequate housing and to family and private life.
34. The Committee acknowledges the progress made in the field of education for women and girls. However, the Committee is concerned that Israeli Arab and Bedouin women and girls remain in a disadvantaged and marginalized situation, including with regard to drop-out rates and access to institutions of higher education. It is also concerned about women’s disproportionately low presence in engineering and technical fields in higher education. While noting some efforts made, the Committee is further concerned that elimination of gender stereotypes from textbooks has not been prioritized, including in the Arab education system.
35. The Committee calls on the State party to enhance its compliance with article 10 of the Convention and to raise awareness of the importance of education as a human right and as the basis for the empowerment of women. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take the necessary measures, including the use of temporary special measures, in accordance with article 4 and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25, to reduce the drop-out rates of Israeli Arab and Bedouin girls and increase the number of Israeli Arab and Bedouin women at institutions of higher education, inter alia through the provision of scholarships;
(b) Take effective measures to actively overcome the de facto segregation in the fields of education, to encourage the diversification of educational and professional choices for women and men and to offer incentives for women to enter traditionally male dominated fields of study; and
(c) Review and revise textbooks, including in the Arab education system, through the special committee appointed for this purpose, in a speedy manner, in order to eradicate gender stereotypes.
38. The Committee appreciates the efforts made by the State party in the area of health care as well as the continuing decline in the child mortality rate. However, it is concerned that discrepancies remain in the infant and maternal mortality rates of Jewish, Israeli Arab and Bedouin women and children. The Committee also notes with concern that the restrictions on movement in the Occupied Territories have had a negative impact on the health of women, including older women and disabled women, and in particular their access to adequate health services, such as hospitals, clinics, urgent care and specialized treatment not available in the Occupied Territories. In addition, the Committee remains concerned about the number of incidents at Israeli checkpoints which have a negative impact on the rights of Palestinian women, including the right of access to health-care services for all women, including pregnant women.
39. The Committee calls upon the State party to take all necessary measures to ensure women’s access to health care and health-related services, within the framework of the Committee’s general recommendation No. 24. To this end, the Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a) Refrain from any action that would prevent Palestinian women from accessing adequate health services and treatment;
(b) Strengthen its efforts to close the gaps in the infant and maternal mortality rates of Jewish, Israeli Arab, and Bedouin women and children; and
(c) Ensure that the Israeli authorities at the checkpoints are instructed to ensure safe and unhindered access to health-care services for all women, including pregnant women.
Palestinian female prisoners
40. The Committee is seriously concerned at the situation of Palestinian women in detention. In this respect, the Committee expresses its concern with respect to the harsh detention conditions of Palestinian female prisoners as well as their treatment during detention. It also expresses its concern at reports that approximately 25 per cent of Palestinian female prisoners suffer from treatable diseases, but that many have little or no access to medical attention, and it notes with concern the lack of adequate services provided to pregnant Palestinian prisoners. Furthermore, the Committee notes with concern that the detention of Palestinian female prisoners outside the Occupied Territories obstructs regular family visits.
41. The Committee urges the State Party to:
(a) Ensure humane detention conditions and treatment of Palestinian women during their arrest, interrogation and detention;
(b) Ensure that Palestinian female prisoners, including pregnant prisoners, have access to adequate health services and treatment and that the gender-specific medical needs of these prisoners are met; and
(c) Ensure that Palestinian female prisoners are allowed to receive family visits as often as other female prisoners.
44. The Committee notes the establishment, in 2007, of the Advisory Committee on the Policy regarding Bedouin Towns as well as the detailed information provided in the State party’s reports on the situation of Bedouin women and girls in the Negev desert, including the increase in school enrolment rates and decline in infant mortality. Nevertheless, the Committee reiterates its concern that Bedouin women remain in a disadvantaged and marginalized situation, especially with regard to education, employment and health, and their access to land. The Committee also reiterates its concern at the situation of Bedouin women who live in unrecognized villages with poor housing conditions and limited or no access to water, electricity and sanitation.
45. The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Continue to take effective measures to eliminate discrimination against Bedouin women and to enhance respect for their human rights through effective and proactive measures, including in the fields of education, employment and health;
(b) In its planning efforts in the Negev area, respect the Bedouin population’s right to their ancestral land and their traditional livelihood; and
(c) Include, in its next report, detailed information on any national policy, strategy or programme carried out by the State party to improve the situation of Bedouin women and girls, including their access to health care, education and employment, as well as the impact and achievements of such government initiatives.