UN Women’s ‘silence’ over October 7 sexual violence ‘betrays all women’

Speakers at Sunday’s rally said that the women’s rights orgnisation was ‘unfit’ for purpose


The UN agency for women have “betrayed all women” due to their silence for over 50 days following the brutal sexual violence carried out by Hamas on October 7.

This was the overriding message of a rally on Sunday, where attendees wore black, put orange tape over their mouths and held placards with the words: “UN Women your silence is loud”.

The demonstration on Whitehall came after a conspicuous lack of outrage for many weeks from the global women’s rights organisation in the face of mounting evidence of rape and torture from witnesses, morgue workers and even the perpetrators themselves, some of whom videoed their crimes.

On November 25, UN Women called for “a rigorous investigation” into “reports of gender-based violence”, which “alarmed” them.

Coming under increasing pressure from campaigners, on Dec 2, the organisation put out a further statement, saying that they “unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas on Israel on 7 October”.

But one of the organisers, Hilla Lousky Vigder told rally-goers: “For the moment, this statement is nothing but words. After 53 days of complete silence, I'm not even sure if there is a pure intention behind those words…. So, I've lost my faith. I lost my faith in this system called UN Women and any Israeli and Jewish women probably feel the same as I do.”

Lousky Vigder added: “All murdered, raped, abused, humiliated, mutilated women and all the ones who are still in captivity as we stand here today, and all the survivors, deserve much better than words. We will not tolerate this, and we won’t be silenced. We won’t stop. This act of UN Women will never be forgiven or forgotten."

To shouts of “Shame on you!”, other speakers, who included actress Maureen Lipman, women’s rights activist Nimco Ali and the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, agreed that the global body had said too little, too late.

Lipman told over 1,500 rally-goers: “The silence from our sisterhood is just deafening, especially from the UN. They are utterly silent over gang rapes, pelvises being broken. Why? Because Jewish women don’t count.”

Ali, a Somali Muslim, who is at the forefront of a campaign to end FGM, told the crowd: “Women don’t lie about rape.”

Having worked in the field of international development for 20 years, she said it was “incredibly painful to watch an organisation that is meant to defend women, an organisation, which I was hoping would defend all women, was silent about the rape and abuse of Jewish women…My message to the UN is that they need to apologise for their silence.”
She added that not only was the silence “giving legitimacy for Hamas not to only rape women in the Israeli community, but also their own”.

Hassan-Nahoum, who had flown in from Israel, called for UN Women to be defunded. The organisation received over $150m funding from 87 government and private partners in 2022.

She said: ““We have spent the last 10 years fighting to be believed and all that work has gone down the drain because Jewish women can’t be believed. UN Women have…betrayed all women. We need to get them defunded until they understand that rape is rape.”

Speaking on behalf of the Christian Action Against Antisemitism, its co-founder Hayley Ace said: “Why do UN Women exist if they cannot condemn brutal rapists? I believe [UN Women is] unfit and unworthy to hold the title of the sacred duty that [it has].”

Also addressing the group, which included a number of men, was journalist Brigit Grant, Laura Marks, co-chair of the Alliance of Jewish Women, academic Dr Chloe Pinto and Iranian Mattie Heaven, deputy chairman of West Midlands region.

Heaven said: “The fight Jewish people are going through is everybody’s fight. It is a fight for humanity. Hamas is a terrorist organisation funded by the IRGC. If we don’t come together and fight against this, it won’t just be Jewish women. It will be every woman.”

Speaking afterwards to the JC, a rally-goer, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I have been fighting against injustices my whole life, but people aren’t fighting for Jews. The antisemitism is horrendous. If we don’t speak up now for all women, the issue is lost for everyone.”

A male attendee said he decided to attend because he was “outraged by the double standards from the social justice movement when it comes to Jews. I am horrified by the silence for 53 days. [UN Women] attempts to be impartial and create moral equivalency, but there is no moral equivalency here.”

Fellow attendee Lilly said: “It doesn’t matter which side you are on. [Rape] is not okay. You can still fight for the freedom of Palestinians while also fighting for the rights of women.”

Later that day, a group of women wearing clothes stained with red paint around the crotch to replicate the images of women who were raped on October 7 and holding posters which said “Me too unless ur a Jew” stood in Parliament Square

Organiser Florit Shoihet from Remeber 7.10  said:  “We wanted to tackle the deafeneing and unforgivable silence of human rights and women’s organisations worldwide and it seems like sometimes in mainstream and social media,  it feels ike the atrocities are almost justified. We wanted to stand against that and highlight especially the gender-based terrorism that Israeli and Jewish women went through on October 7.”

On Monday, the UN held a conference on the gender-based violence on October 7.

Israel's ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan described the rape and mutilation as “weapons of war”.

He said: “To parade their naked bodies in the street while onlookers cheered, this was premediated. This was planned. This was instructed. The atrocities committed by Hamas were more barbaric than ISIS.”

He said that "UN women ignored all of the proof and were blind to all of the evidence, including video footage” which was sent to them.

Despite the UN announcing that an investigation would now be taking place into the sexual crimes committed of October 7, Erdan said that “the investigation which must truly be carried out is an investigation into the UN’s heinous crimes against Israeli women”.

Sheila Katz, CEO of National Council of Jewish Women, told the session: “When people use the language of feminism while brushing aside gender-based violence because of the identity of the victims, they’re sending a clear signal that women’s rights are negotiable, that rape is sometimes okay, that some women have more dignity than other. That is more than hypocrisy. That is a betrayal of all women.”

UN Women UK was approached for comment.

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