Lack of legal status and health rights of Palestinian women spouses of Palestinian Israeli citizens

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstract


Health is a universal human right. However, access to health care services (HCS) depends on a person’s legal status (LS) in a given country. Provision of HCS to undocumented persons is controversial. In Israel, only residents, as determined by the Citizenship Law (CL), are eligible for National Health Insurance. A 2003 amendment to CL left thousands of women from the Occupied Palestinian Territories who are married to Palestinian citizens of Israel with virtually no means of attaining LS.
Using a human rights lens, we aim to uncover mechanisms in the CL amendment that infringe upon the right to health among women lacking LS.


We conducted in-depth interviews with 21 Palestinian women (ages 22-59) lacking LS in Israel.
Our thematic analysis revealed that the CL amendment not only infringes upon the right to health, but other basic human rights thereby enacting structural discrimination. Many women lacking LS live without health insurance or have limited access to HSC (e.g., prenatal care and screening, hospitalization, abortions), paying burdensome fees for private care while being denied the right to work. This situates them in poverty, as they also incur legal fees pursuing LS. Women are denied freedom of movement, and family life is disrupted, via frequent separations and they live in fear of deportation due to the precarity of temporary residency permits. Lack of LS can be passed to children, thereby violating children’s rights to education and health. A mother can even lose custody, since children cannot be registered on her non-existent ID. Lack of LS thus infringes upon women’s right to live in dignity, while deepening gender inequalities, as they cannot study, own or inherit property, open bank account, or obtain a driver’s license.
Assuring the right to health and access to universal HCS among Palestinian women lacking LS requires substantive reformation of the CL to disconnect LS from the right to health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-478
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 20 Oct 2017


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