The current Palestinian Legislative Council and PA ministers should reiterate the promises and commitments of their predecessors to ensure that the PAs laws and policies conform to international human rights standards, and should go one step further than its predecessors to ensure that these standards are reflected in laws and respected in practice. Adhering to these norms, even while they are not internationally binding on the PA, will bring it into conformity with international best practices and fulfill Palestinians long-held aspirations for governmental reform and personal security. Failing to offer women and all members of Palestinian society the highest protection of the law will further erode public support for Palestinian security forces and the judiciary.
The development of an effective judiciary and law enforcement capable of addressing violence against women in all its forms should be one of the top priorities of the new government. Despite the severe constraints placed on the PA by the continued Israeli occupation, there are simple and concrete measures that the Palestinian Authority can take immediately to create institutional structures to address gender-based violence. At a minimum the PA should train all government employees (including police officers, doctors, governors, forensic experts, etc.) who come into contact with victims of physical and sexual violence on how to deal with such cases appropriately and establish clear and explicit guidelines of intervention in line with international standards and best practices. The PA should also repeal the applicability of the most discriminatory and abusive provisions of Jordanian and Egyptian law in force in the West Bank and Gaza that hinder efforts to tackle gender-based violence.
While violence against women, a global problem, is certainly not unique to the OPT, the PA does have a unique opportunity to enshrine protections for womens human rights in new drafts of criminal and family laws. Although societal attitudes condoning violence against women and girls may be slow to change, a policy of zero-tolerance for violence against women would represent a significant accomplishment that could serve as a catalyst for a broader societal endorsement of womens rights.