Women in Palestine

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Ramallah woman in embroidered costume, sometime between 1929 and 1946

One of the main determinants of the role of Palestinian women is the structure of the family which may be a nuclear unit, a transitional unit, or a hamula unit (hamula means "extended family", the most common family structure in Palestinian society).[citation needed] The significant influences to the rights of women in Palestine include the patriarchal tradition and the teachings of the Quran among Muslim Palestinians or the Bible among Palestinian Christians. In general, expecting parents in Palestine prefer having males because the boys carry "the name of the family and secures" the continuity of the family line and strengthens the likelihood of its economic stability.[citation needed] On the other hand, female Palestinians were not expected to secure income for the family, but women were expected to adapt to the customary roles of women in Palestinian society wherein females were traditionally molded as inferior to men.[1]

However, there had been a gradual change in the attitudes of parents regarding the education of their Palestinian daughters since the middle of the 1970s. From the middle part of the 1970s, several numbers of Palestinian women achieved education from universities, instead of only receiving education at the secondary level. Reasons for the change of parental attitude were the "increased demand for women on the labour market", changes in the status of the economy in the West Bank territory, the "economic interests" of the parents, and the idea that a well-educated Palestinian woman has a better place and opportunity on the "marriage market". In addition to this, armed with earned education, an unmarried daughter can financially support herself and her parents.[1]

Palestinian women have a long history of involvement in resistance movements inside the Occupied Territories and in countries such as Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. They established many feminist-nationalist organizations, including the Palestinian Federation of Women's Action Committees in the West Bank and Gaza.[2]

Despite of the change in parental views, however, contemporary women in Palestine are reported to be experiencing adversity due to political discord, Israeli occupation, and the "denial of full rights and protection by Palestinian society" in general.[3]

A survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics from 2011 showed that 35 percent of married women in Gaza had been on the receiving end of physical violence by their husband during the previous twelve months, and that 40 percent of unmarried women had been physically abused by a member of their household.[4] In 2013, UNRWA canceled its annual marathon in Gaza after Hamas rulers prohibited women, including Palestinian women from Gaza, to participate in the race.[5]


There was a shift in that social order in 1844 when women first participated alongside men in protesting against the first Jewish settlements[citation needed] near the town of Afulah. Between 1900 and 1910, when Palestine was under Ottoman rule, Palestinian women initiated the creation of numerous associations and societies. These organizations were formed mostly in the larger Palestinian cities, and especially in cities with large Christian populations such as Jaffa, Jerusalem, Haifa, and Acre.[6] In 1917, they took part in large demonstrations at the time of the Balfour Declaration, and later formed a 14-member delegation that demanded that the Balfour Declaration be revoked and that Jewish immigration to Palestine be halted. In 1921, Palestinian women organized by setting up their own society known as the Arab Women's Society, based in Jerusalem. The society organized demonstrations against the Palestinian Jewish settlements. Due to the lack of funding[citation needed] and the social and political pressure which was put on the women of the Arab Women's Society[by whom?], the group ceased to exist after two years. Women formed a 'rescue committee' to collect donations in order to revive it. In the 1929 Palestine riots, women took part in multiple protests and demonstrations which resulted in women being killed by the British Mandate forces.[citation needed] They organized a Women's Conference, where they sent out a protest letter to King George V and to the League of Nations.

Following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the participation of Palestinian women in opposition was almost non-existent due to a strict social order in society at the time.[citation needed] The displacement and loss of land for the Palestinians created an economic issue. This created a demand for women in the workforce despite the social restrictions.[7]

Following the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964, helped create the sect known as the Palestinian Women’s Association, which allowed women to take part in the first session of the Palestinian National Council that was held in Jerusalem.

Israeli–Palestinian conflict[edit]

The Israeli–Palestinian conflict has seriously affected the Palestinian women. Hundreds of thousands of women were banished and displaced from their homelands after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and more during the 1967 War. The majority of them and their descendants are still refugees. Many measures taken by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) have affected the Palestinian women's physical, psychological, health, education, economic security.[8] A press release issued by the Ma'an News Agency in 2007 reported that many women suffered psychological and sexual violence at the Israeli checkpoint in Beit Safafa. These cases reported forced strip searches under the pretext of security measures.[9]

Women's rights in Palestine[edit]

Divorce rights for women depend on the personal status laws that apply to Muslims, it states that a man can divorce his wife for any reason, while women can request divorce only under certain circumstances. If the women proceed to having a divorce she would not have to present any evidence, but then she will have to give up any financial rights and must return her dowry. The Ministry of Women's Affairs in Palestine, was established in 2003. The ministry is the main governmental sector that is responsible for promoting and protecting women's rights. The ministry works to integrate gender in terms of democracy and human rights. The ministries promote reform of discriminatory laws and gender units have been established in each ministry.[10] In March 2018, the Palestinian Authority repealed a provision allowing accused rapists to evade punishment by marrying their victims.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Manasra, Najah. Palestinian Women: Between Tradition and Revolution
  2. ^ Hasso, Frances S. Resistance, Repression, and Gender Politics in Occupied Palestine and Jordan (Syracuse University Press 2005).
  3. ^ Palestinian women 'suffer doubly', BBC News, March 31, 2005
  4. ^ Odgaard, Lena (25 March 2014). "Upsurge in Palestinian 'honour killings'". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  5. ^ "UN cancels Gaza marathon over Hamas ban on women". Times of Israel. March 5, 2013. 
  6. ^ Fleischman, Ellen (2003). The Nation and Its "New" Women: The Palestinian Women's Movement, 1920-1948. https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0520237900: University of California Press. pp. 103–104. ISBN 0520237897. 
  7. ^ Kazi, Hamida. "Palestinian Women and the National Liberation Movement: A Social Perspective." N.p., 13 Nov. 2013. Web.
  8. ^ "The Impact of the Conflict in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on Women". mediterraneas.org. Retrieved 2015-10-18. 
  9. ^ "Khouloud Daibes: Israeli soldiers forcing women to submit to strip searches at checkpoints". Ma'an News Agency. June 30, 2007. 
  10. ^ Suheir Azzouni. "Palestine - Palestinian Authority and Israeli Occupied Territories" (PDF). Freedom House. 
  11. ^ [1]