Academic journal article Washington and Lee Law Review

The Future of Palestinian Women's Rights: Lessons from a Half-Century of Tunisian Progress

Academic journal article Washington and Lee Law Review

The Future of Palestinian Women's Rights: Lessons from a Half-Century of Tunisian Progress

Article excerpt

Table of Contents

I. Introduction................................................................................ 1551

II. The Palestinian Legal System..................................................... 1553

III. The Tunisian Legal System........................................................ 1556

A. Tunisia Overview................................................................ 1556

B. Suggestions for Palestine..................................................... 1560

IV. Conclusion.................................................................................. 1567

I. Introduction

As this piece goes to print, the Gaza Strip and West Bank Palestinian Territories are currently under the authority of two different Palestinian governments. Gaza is under the control of the Islamist group Hamas, i.e. Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Islamic Resistance Movement),1 which unexpectedly won the majority of seats for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in January 2006.2 The West Bank is under the jurisdiction of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, head of the mainstream Fatah party, who has appointed an alternative cabinet and receives support from the international community.3 Palestinian internecine political conflict and ongoing problems in the peace process with Israel prevent any focus by either Hamas or Fatah on the internal legal regime.4 At some point the situation may stabilize, and Palestine may be able to consider extensive legal reform. One area ripe for consideration is women's rights. As we have discussed in a prior article on Palestinian constitutionalism,5 if the government is Islamist in nature, women's rights are likely to become more based on traditionalist Islamic Shari'a principles.

This Article speculates on the future of Palestinian women's rights if the government in Palestine one day decides to take a more secular direction. If that possibility comes to fruition, we recommend that Palestinians explore the approach adopted by another Muslim country, Tunisia. Why Tunisia? Along with Turkey, Tunisia has taken the most secularized approach to women's rights in majority-Muslim countries.6 Additionally, many Palestinians are somewhat familiar with the Tunisian experience since the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was based there from 1982 to 1994, just prior to moving to the West Bank and Gaza to start the PA.7 Moreover, Palestinians have also been considered one of the more secular groups in the Middle East, and might be amenable to secular approaches in the future.8 Dean Adrien Katherine Wing visited Tunisia several times to explore the implementation of women's rights over the fifty-year period since its independence.9

Part II of this Article will provide some background on the Palestinian legal system with respect to women's rights.10 Subpart III.A will first provide an overview of the Tunisian legal system with respect to women's rights. Subpart III.B will then compare the Tunisian legal system on selected women's rights issues to the Palestinian system with suggestions to future Palestinian policymakers, including legislators and women's rights advocates.

II. The Palestinian Legal System

Like many societies, Palestine has customary practices and religious law which endorse disparate treatment on the basis of gender.11 Customary law may be followed across class and geographic lines, and affects women in several areas.12 For example, in family law, women are clearly subordinate to male heads of households.13 In the educational sphere, sisters are less likely to get as much education as their brothers.14 Conceptions of family honor endorse honor killings in some circles, i.e. the murder of women who shame the family in perceived interactions with unrelated men.15 Domestic violence may not violate criminal law because it can be considered part of male prerogatives for control of female behavior.16

The Islamic Shari'a law that applies to 90% of Palestinians17 has certain benefits to women over customary practices. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.