In a joint effort between the Women’s Affairs Technical Committee and the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, Professor Rashida Manjoo (who is also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences) visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory between the 21st and 31st of December 2011. This was an informal visit, in her academic capacity. An official visit will require a formal invitation by the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
She began her visit with a public talk to representatives of Civil Society Organizations, researchers, activists, and politicians. She presented the main concepts and the conceptual framework of thinking that is used in her reports presented to the United Nations. She introduced a comprehensive approach to deal with violence against women. While those working on the issue of violence against women might be aware of this approach, Ms. Manjoo presented it in such a holistic comprehensive way that it was considered by many in the meeting as a “real eye opener.” The report presented by Ms. Rashida Manjoo in June 2011 to the UN Human Rights Council offers an excellent approach to understand and deal with the “global epidemic” of violence against women.
Chapter II of the second report of the Special Rapporteur gives a clear idea of the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence against women. This is an important aspect conceptually to help those concerned in understanding and fighting violence against women. Another important concept presented in the report is the two broad categories of the forms of violence against women that are important elements to better understand violence against women and be able to address it. The two forms are (1) interpersonal violence and (2) institutional and structural violence. The first form according to the report is about the forms of abuse such as economic, psychological, sexual, emotional physical and verbal threats and actions. The second form, that is the institutional and structural violence, is about structural inequalities and institutional discriminations that are reflected in many contexts, and which maintain women in a subordinated position. Here, at this level, it is important to look at laws, policies, as well as at ideologies that permits and tolerates violence against women. As mentioned in the report, “gender ideologies that dictate that men should control women or allow for men to physically control their partners or children are forms of gender-based structural violence. Therefore, when a woman is abused by a husband because he believes he has the right to physically assault her, the woman is experiencing interpersonal and structural violence simultaneously.”
Ms. Manjoo visited Palestinian villages and met with women who suffer from violence, loss of access to land and water, and restricted movement as a tragic consequence of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.
Meeting with Board members, friends and staff of the Women’s Affairs Technical Committee
During her visit Ms. Manjoo was able to hold meetings with women’s organizations such as the Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC), the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), and the General Union of Palestinian women (GUPW). In her meeting with WATC, Ms. Manjoo discussed in detail their forthcoming work on the protection of women in conflict areas. This research project is entitled, “From Documentation to Action: Palestinian women’s experiences under Israeli military occupation.” The project will be documenting the experiences of Palestinian women in the refugee camps, as well as the experience of Palestinian female political prisoners. During the discussion, different themes such as feminist methodology for documentation, institutionalizing memory, theory and practice in history, and healing the souls of the oppressed were discussed. Ms. Manjoo’s insightful ideas and wisdom were welcomed by the participants in the meeting, as it added to their knowledge and information.
Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences for an initial period of three years by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2009 and commenced her functions in August 2009.
Rashida Manjoo holds a part-time post as a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town. She is the former Parliamentary commissioner of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) in South Africa, a constitutional body mandated to oversee the promotion and protection of gender equality. Prior to being appointed to the CGE she was involved in social context training for judges and lawyers, where she has designed both content and methodology during her time at the Law, Race, and Gender Research Unit, University of Cape Town and at the University of Natal, Durban.
She has held numerous visiting professorships including most recently at the University of Virginia, in the United States. She served as the Des Lee Distinguished Visiting Professor at Webster University, USA where she taught courses in human rights, with a particular focus on women’s human rights and transitional justice. She was the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow with the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School (2006-07) and also a clinical instructor in the program in 2005-6.