Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

Israel: Arab women increasingly report assault, harassment

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 30 July 2008
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Israel: Arab women increasingly report assault, harassment, 30 July 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4896c47514.html [accessed 12 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

NAZARETH, 30 July 2008 (IRIN) - Israel's Arab women face high levels of harassment at home and in the workplace, but - thanks partly to some very public scandals - the number of women reporting crimes against them is on the rise.

The scandals have "encouraged many women to reveal abuse and [they] know that it can be stopped," the Women Against Violence (WAV) organisation, an Arab non-governmental organisation (NGO) in northern Israel, said.

Israel was rocked in the past two years when the former president, Moshe Katsav, and former Minister of Justice Haim Ramon, were accused of sexually harassing young women who worked in their offices. Katsav has since been forced to resign and may yet face rape charges.

Israeli Arabs, who constitute about 20 percent of Israel's population, were also scandalised when a government official at an unemployment centre in Kfar Kana, an Arab village near Nazareth, was charged with trying to force women to sleep with him in exchange for work.

According to WAV, which runs a crisis hotline in Arabic, there was a 58 percent rise in the first half of 2008 of assault and harassment cases at the workplace, compared to 2007, which reflects the growing awareness among Arab women and their willingness to take action.

Blame

However, society's reaction to cases of sexual harassment leaves many women without redress. About a third of WAV's cases involved women aged 26-40, who, WAV said, were blamed for the violence against them, instead of being seen as victims.

Contributing to this is the fact that 76 percent of sexual attacks are either rape or attempted rape.

According to Linda Khawaled-Abu Hof, who operates the hotline, normally the community accepted children who were abused, seeing them as victims, but older women were "blamed for the occurrence of the abuse".

Attacks in the home

About 42 percent of attacks were perpetrated in the home.

"The house should be a safe place," said Reem Hazzan from WAV. "But it is not so in the cases of many women who are attacked by a family member in the home."

Conservative elements have long claimed that by keeping women in the home - preventing them from obtaining higher education and going to work - they are better protected.

"We must eliminate the phenomenon of violence in all its forms," Khawaled-Abu Hof said, "and deal with the reality that all too often imposes silence on the crimes [against women] instead of punishing the perpetrators."

It was crucial to "provide moral support? for women and girls who have decided not to surrender to violence," she said.

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