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Hamas Law Promotes Gender Segregation In Gaza Schools

posted Apr 2, 2013, 8:00 AM by Mpelembe   [ updated Apr 2, 2013, 8:01 AM ]

Gaza's Hamas bars men from teaching at girls' schools in the territory and mandates separate classes for boys and girls from the age of nine.

KHAN YOUNIS, GAZA (APRIL 2, 2013) (REUTERS) - New rules from the Education Ministry of the Islamist Hamas movement ruling the Gaza Stripwill bar men from teaching at girls' schools and mandate separate classes for boys and girls from the age of nine.

The law, published on Monday (April 1), would go into effect next school year and applies throughout the coastal enclave, including in private, Christian-run and United Nations schools.

"Palestinian educators praised this decision from the beginning and we have had many workshops, lecturers and meetings with educational experts and they all recommended this system which separates boys and girls from the age of nine (at schools). And the culture of Palestinian society demanded this too," said Waleed Mezher, the Education Ministry's legal adviser.

Hamas has administered Gaza since fighting a brief civil war with its Palestinian rivals in the secularFatah party in 2007, a year after it won a surprise majority in Palestinian parliamentary polls.

The political split paralysed the legislature and mostly prevented the passing of new laws in Gaza and the West Bank.

But Hamas parliamentarians in Gaza acted alone to approve the new education law, and the movement's critics have for years accused it of trying to build a separate state in Gaza.

Critics of the new measures say the Islamist movement is trying to force its ideology on society, but proponents say they merely want to codify conservative Palestinian values into law.

Gaza activist for women's rights said that the new law was part of a Hamas project to impose its values on Gaza residents.

"This means a continuous separation between the two genders on the basis of preventing the mixing and on the basis of Islamising the community, as the minister of education said and as the rulers who introduced this rule said," said Zeinab al-Ghoneimi.

Private and Christian schools, where classes are mixed until high school, would be the most affected by the decision. Gaza's government-run schools were already mostly gender-segregated.

The Gaza Education Ministry said the private schools had been invited to discuss the legislation before it was enacted but failed to do so.

Hamas leaders have repeatedly denied accusations by human rights groups they are trying to impose Islamic laws on Gaza.

Rights activists have criticised moves by Hamas's government in recent years to impose Islamic dress on female lawyers and school girls, ban men from working as hairdressers for women and interrogate couples walking in Gaza's streets.