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Open letter to Minister Bishop by ActionAid Australia

Open letter to Minister Bishop by ActionAid Australia

31 July 2014 in 2014

Dear Minister Bishop,

The Australian women’s rights community is deeply concerned over the impact of the current conflict in Gaza on Palestinian civilians, and specifically women and their children. Recognising your strong commitment to women’s empowerment and ending violence, we are calling on your support to ensure the Australian Government takes urgent action, including through the UN Security Council (UNSC), to ensure the protection of women and children and an immediate end to the killing, destruction and displacement. This must include roles for women’s active participation in the peace process, in line with UNSC Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

Our organisations condemn violence against civilians by all sides, and are deeply concerned by the disproportionate use of force against civilians in Gaza, which has impacted heavily on women and children and is in direct violation of International Humanitarian Law. Latest statistics from the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicate that almost 50% of the 6,233 Palestinians injured are women and children and over 795 civilians have been killed (795 Palestinians and 2 Israelis) since Israel launched its military attack on Gaza on July 8, 2014. We also fear for the growing number of internally displaced persons, now estimated to be 215,000 women, men and children, and the increased risk of gender-based abuse, exploitation and violence as a result of intense overcrowding in shelters.

Many of our organisations work in the West Bank and Gaza, and in other conflict zones, and are acutely aware of the increase in intimate partner violence that has occurred during and after previous escalations of conflict in Gaza and due to the lack of access to basic needs at the household level. The accelerating violence in Gaza is occurring against a backdrop where 50% of the population is already food insecure and more than 80% are dependent on humanitarian aid.

The current Israeli attacks on critical civilian infrastructure, including water, electricity, health and sanitation facilitates are having a profound impact on an already vulnerable civilian population, and particularly women and children.

Under your leadership, the Australian Government has taken the commendable step of committing to implement UNSC resolutions on Women, Peace and Security under the new aid program. We also acknowledge the UNSC’s Presidential Statement calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Our organisations call upon the Government to use its influence in the Secuirty Council to ensure respect for International Humanitarian Law, and the implementation of UNSCR 1325 by:

a) Taking special measures to protect women and girls from all forms of violence in the conflict, including the potential threat of gender based violence with the growing numbers who are internally displaced and in urgent need of shelter and medical care;

b) Ensuring the full involvement and equal participation of Palestinian and Israeli women in the resolution of the conflict and peace negotiations between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories;

c) Incorporating gender perspectives into the humanitarian response in Gaza, and particularly ensuring access to urgent reproductive health, gender-based violence and psychosocial support services for women and children impacted by the conflict. Australia’s humanitarian assistance announced yesterday should respond in a gender sensitive manner to the escalating needs of civilians in Gaza.

Recognising that the most effective means of ensuring protection of women and children in the conflict is an end to the escalating violence in Gaza, we call upon the Australian Government to continue to work towards not only an immediate ceasefire but intensified efforts to address the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including an end to the blockade of Gaza and the illegal occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The UNSC has an important mandate to maintain and restore international peace and security, as well as to ensure that women play an active role in peace negotiations and conflict resolution.

We look to the Australian Government to take a strong stance to promote women’s leadership and the protection of women and children in a durable and peaceful solution to the current conflict.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned organisations and individuals:

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