Arab Israeli Women's Renunciation of Their Inheritance Shares: A Challenge for Israel's Courts
International Journal of Law in Context, 8 , pp 253-267 (2012) doi:10.1017/S1744552312000079
Posted: 15 May 2012 Last revised: 1 Apr 2016
Date Written: May 14, 2012
The practice of Arab women voluntarily renouncing their shares in the family inheritance is well known, having been noticed in several Mediterranean and African countries, including Israel and the West Bank. This practice seems grossly inegalitarian, reflecting many Muslim women's social and economic inferiority and their dependent status. Some Islamic feminists argue that the practice contradicts not only the letter of the sharia, which guarantees women shares in the family inheritance, but also fundamental Islamic principles. Conservatives, however, see the practice as cohering with the spirit of Islam (though not with the letter of sharia), as a voluntary choice by many Muslim women to let their brothers or husbands fulfill their traditional role of providing for their sisters or wives. International institutions concerned with enhancing gender equality have taken the latter view seriously enough to refrain from judging the practice negatively. Our article highlights the Israeli civil courts' diverse responses to the practice: some judges criticise it while others choose a policy of non-interference. The article further discusses the practice and Israeli civil courts' responses in the comparative perspective of Jewish women's practice of renouncing their property and other rights on divorce. Some Jewish husbands make such renunciation a condition of their dissolving the marriage. Israeli civil courts often see such renunciation as an effect of extortion and permit women to rescind it once divorced. We thus conclude with a plea to the civil courts to encourage gender equality among the Arab population to the same extent, at least, to which they promote it among Israel's Jews.
Keywords: Islamic law, Jewish Law, Inheritance, Family Law, Land Law, Israel, Feminism, Law and Society, Comparative Law, Palestinian Society
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