Sexual Harassment and Abuses Against Women in Palestine

Mada al-Carmel—Arab Center for Applied Social Research held a seminar under the title “Sexual Harassment and Abuses Against Women in Palestine” on Thursday March 21, 2013 at the Mada al-Carmel offices.

Dr. Suhad Dhaher-Nashif, Coordinator of the Gender Studies Program at Mada al-Carmel, opened the seminar by stating that the lecturer from India, Githa Hariharan, could not attend the event because the arrival of the American President, Barak Obama, caused the closure of Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Then Director Abeer Zeibak-Haddad presented her film, “Duma” (“Dolls”), which raises the subject of sexual harassment against women: “I made an effort to persuade women to discuss sexual assault that they were subjected to during their lives. I went to several organizations and in the end, because of my approach, I succeeded in persuading women to speak up.” The film described the stories of Arab women who had experienced sexual assault and who were finally able to discuss what happened to them after years of silence and fear. The film was followed by questions and comments by the audience about the subject of the film and about the subject of sexual harassment in the Palestinian community generally.

Then Ms. Anan Abu Salah, doctoral student in the Department of Social Sciences at the Hebrew University, presented her lecture about sexual assault in the Palestinian Arab community and the influence of the socio-cultural political situation on the problem, on the way victims cope, and on their decisions to seek therapy. “We should always remember that we are an ethnic minority under occupation and that this has a critical impact.” She added that, “the suffering experienced by a victim of sexual assault is a part of cases of assault committed against the larger minority. According to my research, and other researchers, because this society gives legitimacy to the offender of sexual assault and does not hold them accountable, there is no trust between the victim and the state; the discrimination present from the state denies these women the mechanisms to solve the problem.”

The lecture was followed by a discussion about the role of society and the role of the state, including examples were given to illustrate the social and legal processes surrounding sexual assault in the Palestinian community.

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