The Future of Palestinian Women's Rights: Lessons from a Half-Century of Tunisian Progress
20 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2008 Last revised: 10 Sep 2008
The Gaza Strip and West Bank Palestinian Territories are currently under the authority of two different Palestinian governments. Gaza has Hamas, and the West Bank is under the jurisdiction of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, head of the mainstream Fatah party. 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. At some point the situation may stabilize, and Palestine may be able to consider extensive legal reform, including women's rights. In a prior article Hamas, Constitutionalism, and Palestinian Women, 50 HOW. L.J. 479, 513 (2007), we explored what might happen 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 one day decides to take a more secular direction. In that case, we recommend that Palestinians explore the approach adopted by Tunisia. Along with Turkey, Tunisia has taken the most secularized approach to women's rights in the Muslim world. Additionally, many Palestinians are somewhat familiar with the Tunisian experience since the PLO was based there from 1982 to 1994, just prior to moving to the West Bank and Gaza to start the PA. 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. Part II of this Article provides some background on the Palestinian legal system with respect to women's rights. Part III first provides an overview of the Tunisian legal system with respect to women's rights. It then compares the Tunisian legal system on selected women's rights issues to the Palestinian system with suggestions to future Palestinian policymakers.
Keywords: Tunisia, Women's Rights, Human Rights, Islam, Comparative Law
JEL Classification: K10, K19, K30, K33, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation