Hamas court rules women need male guardian to travel outside Gaza Strip

Hamas court rules women need male guardian to travel outside Gaza Strip
Critics accuse Hamas of attempting to roll back women's rights.
2 min read
16 February, 2021
A Hamas judicial official has dismissed criticism of the ruling [Getty]
An Islamic court in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip has ruled that women require the permission of a male guardian to travel outside the besieged territory.

The decision explicitly states that an unmarried woman must get the permission of her male "guardian" - usually her father or eldest male relative - to travel.

It also implies that married women would not be able to travel without their husbands' approval, The Guardian has reported.

The men would not be required to accompany the women, however.

The ruling is similar to the strict guardianship laws that dictate the lives of women in Saudi Arabia.

Before the kingdom loosened the restrictions in 2019, Saudi women were treated as second-class citizens, needing the permission of a father, husband or even son to apply for a passport, let alone travel.

The much-criticised guardianship system even led to the creation of a mobile phone app that alerts male guardians if their female relatives attempt to leave the kingdom.

Saudi women over the age of 21 can now travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian but the strict concept still exists, with men given recourse to challenge women's independence through the courts.

Women still require permission from a male guardian to marry or live alone, for example.

Critics accuse Hamas, the Islamist group which rules Gaza, of attempting to roll back women's rights.

Women's rights activist Zainab al-Ghunaimi says the ruling violates the Palestinian basic law which guarantees equal rights.

The same legal body that imposed Sunday's ruling also allows women to acquire travel documents alone, Ghunaimi was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

However, the head of Gaza's supreme judicial council has dismissed criticism of the ruling as "artificial and unjustified noise".
Read more: The lethal cost of being a women in Palestine

Requiring permission to travel from a male guardian is "consistent" with Islamic and civil laws, Hassan al-Jojo told The Associated Press.

Hamas has been accused of curtailing women's rights in the Gaza Strip ever since it took power there in 2007 following a conflict with rival Palestinian group Fatah.

The group has mandated that women wear the Islamic headscarf in municipal buildings, courts and high schools.

Women in Gaza have also been banned from smoking shisha pipes in public. Hamas has also attempted to impose bans on women receiving salon treatment from male hairdressers, for example, as well as other restrictions with varying degrees of success.

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