GAZA (Reuters) – Gaza’s top Islamic judge agreed on Tuesday to revise a recent court ruling that bars women from travel without permission from a male guardian such as a husband or father.
The restriction, imposed on Sunday by the Higher Sharia Council in Islamist Hamas-run Gaza, had drawn criticism from rights groups which said it violated Palestinian laws against gender-based descrimination.
Protests also erupted outside the office of the council’s Hamas-appointed chairman, Hassan Jojo, who had signed the edict into law.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Jojo said: “We have agreed to redraft this ruling.” He did not say if the language banning female travel without a male guardian’s approval would be removed.
Hamas leaders have repeatedly denied any intention to impose Islamic law on the Gaza Strip’s 2 million residents.
The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), a Palestinian rights group with offices in Gaza and the West Bank, said Sunday’s ruling “violates women’s dignity and rights and places them at an inferior level” in society.
ICHR also noted Palestinian laws bar discrimination “on the basis of race, gender, colour, religion, political opinion or disability”.
Reham Owda, a Palestinian political analyst and womens’ rights expert, said the ruling might have aimed at stemming a recent increase in Gaza women seeking work outside the small coastal territory, where employment is 49%.
“The government in Gaza wanted to limit (travel) and restrict the movement of women who are ambitious from leaving in search of study or jobs, and escape the Israeli blockade,” Owda said.
Israeli and Egypt maintain restrictions on the Mediterranean enclave, citing security concerns arising from Hamas rule.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Rami Ayyub, Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)