Hamas Strips Women of Freedom of Movement in Gaza
Traditional dress

A Hamas court says women require a guardian’s approval to travel.

By United with Israel Staff and AP

A Hamas-run Islamic court in the Gaza Strip has ruled that women require the permission of a male guardian to travel, the latest step taken by the terror group to restricting freedom in the Gaza Strip.

The rollback in women’s rights could spark a backlash in Gaza at a time when the Palestinians plan to hold elections later this year.

It could also solidify the brutal terror group’s support among its extremist base at a time when it faces criticism over poverty and squalor in the territory it has ruled since running Mahmoud Abbas’ regime out of the strip in a bloody 2007 coup.

The decision by the Sharia Judicial Council, issued Sunday, says an unmarried woman may not travel without the permission of her “guardian,” which would usually refer to her father or another older male relative. Permission would need to be registered at the court, but the man would not be required to accompany the woman on the trip.

The language of the ruling strongly implied that a married woman would not be able to travel without her husband’s approval.

The edict also said that a man could be prevented from traveling by his father or grandfather if it would cause “grave harm.” But the man would not need to seek prior permission, and the relative would have to file a lawsuit to prevent him from traveling.

The ruling resembles the so-called guardianship laws that long existed in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, where women were treated as minors requiring the permission of a husband, father or even a son to apply for a passport and travel abroad. The kingdom loosened those restrictions in 2019.

Hassan al-Jojo, head of the Supreme Judicial Council, told The Associated Press that the ruling was “balanced” and consistent with Islamic and civil laws. He dismissed what he called “artificial and unjustified noise” on social media about the edict.

He justified the measure by citing past instances in which girls had traveled without the knowledge of their parents and men had left their wives and children without a breadwinner.

The ruling sparked criticism on social media, where many decried Hamas eliminating women’s rights. The Palestinian People’s Party, a small dissident group, called on Hamas to reverse the decision.

Zainab al-Ghunaimi, an activist who runs a Gaza-based group focused on women’s rights, said the ruling contravenes the Palestinian Basic Law, which grants equal rights to adults, and means that authorities are “going backwards in protecting human rights.”

She noted that the same legal body allows a woman to marry at age 16 and get travel documents on her own.

While Hamas currently rules the Gaza Strip, it faces challenges from other Iranian-backed terror groups in the coastal enclave, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Offshoots of ISIS and Abbas loyalists also vie for power.

Hamas has imposed an Islamic dress code on female lawyers and high school students.

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