A phone app that lets women in the Palestinian Gaza Strip to anonymously report domestic violence is allowing an increasing number of victims to get aid while avoiding the stigma and retaliation that many victims fear if they go to the police directly.
Local computer developer Alaa Huthut created the “Masahatuna” or “Our Spaces” software after seeing a need for a secure place to seek guidance in a society where familial constraints keep much domestic abuse concealed out of sight.
“Privacy was really crucial since fear is generally the major reason women don’t contact or attend centers,” she explained to the press.
“No one would know she made contact if they looked at the phone,” Huthut added.
According to Palestinian figures, Gaza is home to 2.3 million people, about half of whom are women, and is administered by the Islamist Hamas organisation.
Domestic abuse affected 41% of women in Gaza in 2019, according to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, and women’s groups claim the problem intensified during coronavirus lockdowns, as it did in many other nations.
“For several years, I was subjected to verbal and physical assault,” claimed a Gaza woman, 28, who did not want to be identified. The woman said that after her divorce two years ago, she was intimidated by her ex husband and his family, who threatened to take her 7-year-old kid away.
The Gaza Community Media Centre’s Kholoud Al-Sawalma claimed 355 women had downloaded the app and 160 had visited help centers for psychological and legal assistance.
A Gaza court this month imposed the death punishment on a man who murdered his wife. Women’s groups, on the other hand, argue more needs to be done in Gaza to prevent domestic violence, claiming that some women who report abuse are often routed to clan elders to address the issue.
Some males may try to avoid severe punishment by accusing their spouses of infidelity or fabricating mental health problems in situations where women have died as a result of violence, according to law advocates.