Constitutionalism, Legal Reform, and the Economic Development of Palestinian Women

U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-15

Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 15, No. 655, 2006

62 Pages Posted: 22 May 2008

See all articles by Adrien K. Wing

Adrien K. Wing

University of Iowa - College of Law


The purpose of this article is to discuss the current status of one resilient group of women - Palestinians. Their economic and social development has been hindered by disparate treatment in all facets of their lives from both internal and external factors involving the intertwining of customary practices and religious norms as well as the continued Israeli occupation. One day, when Palestine becomes an independent nation, its future political and economic success will depend in part on the degree to which it can include women in all aspects of the society. The legal regime must assist rather than impede that process, and the article offers a few proposals to that end.

Part II describes the current situation of the Palestinian women. It analyzes the negative effects on Palestinian women of customary law and traditions that are prevalent in the Palestinian society. It then demonstrates the impact of Islamic law (Shari'a) on the women. The article next examines the direct and indirect effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian women. Finally, the part concludes that the combination of internal violence, resulting from custom and religion, and the external violence, resulting from the occupation, causes spirit injuries to Palestinian women, which makes it almost impossible for them to flourish in the current situation.

Part III focuses on the Basic Law of Palestine, theoretically in effect, and the Draft Constitution, which would take effect when Palestine officially joins the community of independent states. It discusses the pre-Basic Law history of documents that address gender equality, including the Declaration of Independence and the very progressive Women's Charter of 1994. It then examines and compares the various provisions of the Basic Law and the Draft Constitution as they relate to gender equality and the development of Palestinian women. It finally addresses the discrepancies between the reality of the Palestinian society and the ideals expressed in the Draft Constitution and the Basic Law.

Part IV discusses various proposals to improve the status of Palestinian women, including curbing the high fertility rates, improving the employment and education of Palestinian women, and implementing legal reform.

The article was written before Hamas won its 2006 electoral victory. The issues discussed herein have only intensified in severity. Only time will tell whether Palestinian women will ever be able to fully enjoy their fundamental international and nationally constituted human rights and participate in Palestine's economic, civil, political, social, and cultural development.

Keywords: Palestine, women's rights, constitutionalism, economic development, human rights, Islam

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K30, K33, K39

Suggested Citation

Wing, Adrien Katherine, Constitutionalism, Legal Reform, and the Economic Development of Palestinian Women. U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-15, Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 15, No. 655, 2006, Available at SSRN:

Adrien Katherine Wing (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

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