Protecting children from all forms of violence, exploitation and grave violations
High Prevalence of Violence against Children: Children are exposed to unacceptable levels of violence on the way to and from school, during school, and in their homes. There are two main sources of violence: i) violence resulting from the occupation and ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and ii) violence within Palestinian families and communities, including domestic violence, harsh corporal punishment in homes and schools, sexual abuse, early marriage, and child labour. These two sources of violence are interconnected and are linked to family stress and dysfunction.
A study on violence in 2011 found that 48 per cent of households (48 percent in the West Bank, and 49 percent in Gaza) were exposed to violence from the security forces and settlers.1 Domestic violence levels are also high in 2014 MICSs (PCBS) study, confirming that 93 per cent of children aged 2 to 14 years experienced violent disciplining at home, and 23 per cent of children experienced severe physical punishment. Pervasive and harmful social norms including child marriage, child labour, sexual violence and gender-based violence are issues of great concern.
Ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict: The ongoing manifestation of grave violations by parties to the conflict is an underlying causal factor, and includes killing and maiming, attacks against schools and health facilities, denial of humanitarian access, and child recruitment for armed conflict, in the context of ongoing clashes, settler violence and stabbings. In the West Bank including in East Jerusalem, adolescent boys (and increasingly girls) are becoming caught up in occupation related violence.
Worsening socio-economic hardships, poverty, early school drop-outs especially at secondary school level, youth and adult unemployment, ongoing tensions between Palestinians and Israeli Forces, settler violence, threats and actual demolitions, and ongoing harassment by Israeli Forces create a downward cycle which erodes the resilience and coping mechanisms of families and fuels ongoing despondency and violence.
In Gaza the protracted humanitarian protection crisis continues to have a significant impact on the well‑being of children and families. Successive conflicts have resulted in thousands of deaths, created high levels of psychosocial distress, and eroded public infrastructure. This situation has been exacerbated by violence linked to the Great March of Return demonstrations at the Israel/Gaza fence. Children and families’ resilience capacities continue to be eroded, as the needs in the population have exhausted family coping mechanisms, which provided forms of support that households have historically relied upon.
Ill-treatment of children in Israeli Military Detention and lack of alternatives to detention: Palestinian children aged between 12 and 17 years, from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, continue to be detained and arrested by Israeli forces. Based on sworn affidavits by the children, there are reported forms of ill-treatment of children and due process violations when arrested and in detention that are illustrative of a retributive justice system. These include night arrests, at times painful hand ties, and a lack of access to a lawyer or to alternatives to detention.
Weak and nascent national child protection prevention and response service delivery systems: Overall, funding and capacities of child protection systems in the State of Palestine are inadequate and unable to respond to the needs. Government also remains heavily dependent upon international aid to provide essential services. The fragmentation of administrative jurisdiction, physical barriers and access restrictions across Gaza, Area C of the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem, has resulted in variable social welfare reach to implement laws, policies and services across the State of Palestine. Lack of confidence in the formal social welfare sector and reliance on informal dispute resolution mechanisms or conciliations forum has hindered the availability of high quality services at a national scale. Recourse to deprivation of liberty due to limited available diversionary mechanisms translate into a retributive justice system where the social vulnerabilities of children and their families and their root causes are not holistically addressed.
__________________________________________________________________________________________ PCBS, (2012). Violence Survey in Palestinian Society, 2011: Main Findings, March 2012.
The overall purpose of UNICEF State of Palestine’s child protection programming is to ensure that more children, especially the most vulnerable, are better protected from violence, exploitation and grave violations. Ultimately, by eliminating these childhood violations, children will be better able to achieve their educational potential, be guaranteed improved health outcomes, and assume their role as productive members of their societies, communities and families.
In order to achieve these protection commitments for children UNICEF SoP is working towards:
Strengthened investment in national child protection prevention and response service delivery systems. This includes support for necessary child protection legal, policy and regulatory reforms aimed at ensuring protection safeguard measures are in place. It also entails reinforcing the social welfare workforce, strengthening case management systems and data collection systems, and supporting access to restorative and child-friendly justice systems including preventive and diversionary measures.
Strengthening prevention and protection services for children in humanitarian settings by investing in child-friendly community level services in worst affected areas including Gaza, East Jerusalem, and Hebron. This includes scaling up access to mental health and psychosocial support services and specialist services for children and their caregivers, as well as legal assistance to arrested and detained children. Greater coherence and complementarity between development and humanitarian programmes are promoted by building on existing systems and community level structures to deliver humanitarian services.
Strengthening monitoring and documentation on grave violations against children by stepping up documentation of violations from all parties, measuring the impact on children, and advocating for enhanced compliance to international humanitarian law, international human rights law, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and child protection standards.
Undertaking research to expand the evidence base on the vulnerabilities and gaps faced by children, and the impact on their realization of their full potential, informing programme responsiveness and design.