Making Refugee Women Count!
Prepared for the Expert and Advisory Services
Fund International Development Research Centre
by Nahla Abdo
March 2000 - Ottawa
6. Gender Compensation:
The International Context
This section briefly surveys international customary
and Human Rights Laws that are relevant to the experiences
of Palestinian women. Emphasis will be placed on International
treaties and conventions that deal specifically with
compensation made on the basis of gender or sex.
Although relatively new, compensation for gender/sex
related violations is an area of increasing international
concern. There are specific International conventions
and laws that protect and safeguard women from abuse
on the basis of their sex. The two most comprehensive
international bills of rights of women are: the Convention
on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination
Against Women (CEDAW), adopted by the UNGA on 18 December
1979, and the Beijing Declaration and Platform of
Action adopted in November, 1995.
The CEDAW regulates the relationship between the
State and the female citizen and is thus not applicable
to Palestinian refugees. Nonetheless, it is an important
international reference to consider if and when discussions
of refugee settlement in any existing state occur,
as both Israel and neighbouring Arab countries are
signatories to the CEDAW Convention. The binding force
of CEDAW is not its legal, but rather its moral power
and commitment to gender equality within the boundaries
of the state.
Commitment to CEDAW varies according to an individual
state’s respect of human rights and international
laws. Canada, for instance, has demonstrated a high
commitment to women’s rights and gender issues.
Canada has been a pioneer in some areas, for instance
in considering persecution on gender or sexual basis
as grounds for granting asylum and refugee status.
Also, aware of the negative impact labour discrimination
against women causes, the Canadian government, following
a federal Court ruling in October 1999, is expected
to compensate about 200,000 mostly female employees
for loss of wages they incurred on the basis of their
The Beijing Conference and Platform of Action elaborates
and expands on the terms of CEDAW, and has more direct
relevance to Palestinian women refugees. A key area
of concern within the Platform of Action, Critical
Area E, concerns women under Armed Conflict. The relevance
of Critical Area E to the Palestinian case is found
in the very definitions provided by the Platform of
Peace is inextricably linked with equality between
women and men and development.
Violations of the human rights of women in situations
of armed conflict are violations of the fundamental
principles of international human rights and humanitarian
Violations of human rights in situations of armed
conflict and military occupation are violations of
the fundamental principles of international human
rights and humanitarian law.
The Beijing Platform of Action carries special weight
in the Palestinian case because of the definition
it attributes to the term ‘Armed Conflict’.
People in armed conflict, according to the Platform
of Action, include those living under ‘military
occupation’, ‘colonialism’, ‘foreign’
or ‘alien’ rule. In other words, included
in the definition of living in armed conflict are
the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, West Bankers,
Gazans and all camp refugees living outside of Israel/Palestine.