Gaza City, Gaza Strip (The Associated Press) – An Islamic court run by Hamas in the Gaza Strip ruled that women need permission from a male guardian to travel, further restricting movement in and out of territories besieged by Israel and Egypt since the militant group’s takeover of power.
Rolling back on women’s rights could lead to a backlash in Gaza at a time when the Palestinians have been It plans to hold elections later this year. It could also boost Hamas’ support among its conservative base at a time Facing criticism about living conditions In the territories it governs since 2007.
The Sharia Judicial Council’s decision, issued on Sunday, states that an unmarried woman may not travel without permission from her “guardian,” which usually refers to her father or one of her older male relatives. The permission must be registered with the court, but the man will not be required to accompany the woman on the trip.
The language of the ruling implied that a married woman would not be able to travel without her husband’s consent.
The decree also states that a man can be prevented from traveling by his father or grandfather if this would cause “serious harm”. But the man will not need to obtain prior permission, and his relative will have to file a lawsuit to prevent him from traveling.
The ruling is similar to the so-called guardianship laws that have existed for a long time in the highly conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where women are treated as minors requiring the permission of a husband, father, or even a son to apply for a passport and travel abroad. The kingdom eased these restrictions in 2019.
Hassan Jojo, head of the Supreme Judicial Council, told The Associated Press that the ruling was “balanced” and in line with Islamic and civil laws. He denied what he described as “artificial and unjustified hype” on social media regarding the fatwa.
He justified this measure by referring to previous cases in which girls traveled without their parents’ knowledge, and men left their wives and children without a breadwinner.
Israel and Egypt have largely closed the Gaza borders since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Israel says the restrictions are necessary to isolate the group, which has fought three wars with Israel, and prevent it from acquiring weapons.
And live in the region about two million Palestinians. All Gaza residents must undergo a lengthy permit process to travel abroad and rely largely on the Rafah crossing with Egypt, which opens only sporadically. The restrictions make it difficult for people to seek medical care or higher education outside the narrow coastal strip.
The ruling sparked criticism on social media, with many accusing Hamas of rolling back women’s rights even as Saudi Arabia loosened its restrictions, including by allowing women to drive. The Palestinian People’s Party, a small left-wing group, called on Hamas to reverse the decision.
Zainab Al-Ghunaimi, an activist who runs a Gaza-based group focusing on women’s rights, said the ruling contravened the Palestinian Basic Law, which grants equal rights to adults, and means that the authorities are “backing down in protecting human rights.”
She noted that the same legal body allows women to marry at the age of 16 and obtain travel documents on their own.
Hamas has not imposed the kind of hard-line interpretation of Islamic law that other armed groups, such as the Islamic State and the Taliban, support in Afghanistan. However, it has taken some limited steps to impose conservative norms in the region, including imposing Islamic dress codes on female lawyers and high school students.