Statement on Gaza by UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous

It is now more than 100 days since the horrors of the Hamas attacks on Israel of 7 October and the horrors that have followed, especially in Gaza. 

Since then, we have seen evidenced once more that women and children are the first victims of conflict and that our duty to seek peace is a duty to them. Without change, these last 100 days will be mere prelude to the next 100.

We have heard shocking accounts of unconscionable sexual violence during the attacks that have led to calls such as UN Women’s for accountability, justice, and support for all those affected. We unequivocally condemn all acts of sexual and gender-based violence wherever, whenever, and against whomever they are perpetrated. I call again for accountability for all those affected by the 7 October attacks.

Those 100 days have also seen unparalleled destruction rained on the people of Gaza. For them there is no place of safety, no rest or respite. Women and girls make up the majority of those killed, wounded, and displaced. Our Gender Alert estimates that some 1 million women and girls are displaced in Gaza, two mothers killed every hour, while around 10,000 children have lost their fathers. There is a cruel inversion of the situation before 7 October. In the past 15 years, 67 per cent of all civilians killed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were men. Less than 14 per cent were women and girls. That percentage has reversed. Today, 70 per cent of those killed are women and children. These are people, not numbers, and we are failing them. That failure, and the generational trauma inflicted on the Palestinian people over these 100 days and counting, will haunt us all for generations to come.

However much we mourn the situation of the women and girls of Gaza today, we will mourn further tomorrow without unrestricted humanitarian assistance and an end to the destruction and killing. These women and girls are deprived of safety, medicine, health care, and shelter. They face imminent starvation and famine. Most of all they are deprived of hope and justice. I call again for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and unhindered humanitarian access for all those in Gaza including the provision of vital assistance and services to all women and girls.

It is also more than 100 days that the families of those held hostage in Gaza, some of whom I have met, have waited in unimaginable pain for those they love to return to them. Their courage in the face of suffering and their commitment to peace is humbling. I call again for all hostages to be released immediately and unconditionally.

This is a time for peace. We owe this to all Israeli and Palestinian women and girls. This is not their conflict. They must no longer pay its price.

Originally published on UN Women