Phone app allows women in Gaza to anonymously report domestic violence


GAZA, June 2 (Reuters) – A phone app that allows Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip to anonymously report domestic violence is enabling growing numbers of victims to seek help while avoiding the shame and retaliation that deters many to go directly to the authorities.

The “Masahatuna” or “Our Spaces” app was developed by local computer engineer Alaa Huthut, who saw the need for a safe way to seek advice in a society where family pressures hide much of domestic violence.

“Privacy was very important as fear is usually the main reason why women do not contact or visit centres,” she told Reuters.

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The app allows women to sign up for the service without giving their name or leaving a record of their contact with health centers on their own phone.

“If anyone looks at the phone, they won’t know she made contact,” Huthut said.

Gaza, ruled by the Islamist group Hamas, is home to some 2.3 million people, nearly half of whom are women, according to Palestinian records.

In 2019, the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics said 41% of women in Gaza had faced domestic violence and women’s groups say that, as in many other countries, the problem has worsened during coronavirus lockdowns. .

“I was a victim of verbal and physical abuse for many years,” said a 28-year-old woman from Gaza, who asked not to be named. Following her divorce two years ago, the woman said she faced threats from her ex-husband and his family who threatened to take her 7-year-old son away from her.

Kholoud Al-Sawalma of the Gaza Community Media Center said 355 women had downloaded the app and 160 had contacted help centers that provide psychological and legal support.

Last month, a court in Gaza imposed the death sentence on a man who beat his wife to death. But women’s groups say more needs to be done to end domestic violence in Gaza, where they say some women who report abuse are sometimes referred to clan leaders to resolve it.

In some cases where women have died from abuse, some men may try to evade harsh penalties by accusing their partners of adultery or false mental health issues, lawyers have said.

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Written by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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