Hamas law promotes gender segregation in Gaza strip schools

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Hamas’ education ministry has released a new ruling that bans men from teaching at girl’s schools in the Gaza strip.

The law, published Monday, is set to go into effect throughout the coastal enclave next year and also mandates separate classes for girls and boys from the age of nine upwards.

Private and Christian-led schools, where classes are mixed until secondary school, are set to be the most affected by the decision. United Nations schools will also be forced to adapt.

Gaza’s government-run schools are already mostly gender-segregated.

Proponents of the new law state that it is simply a way to codify Palestinian values into law.

“We are a Muslim people. We do not need to make people Muslims, and we are doing what serves our people and their culture,” said Waleed Mezher, the education ministry’s legal advisor, to Reuters.

Critics, alternatively, believe that the new measures represent Hamas’ attempt to force its ideology on society.

Zeinab al-Ghoneimi, a woman’s rights activist in Gaza, said, “instead of hiding behind traditions, why don’t they say clearly they are Islamists and they want to Islamize the community,” to Palestinian radio.

“To say that the old law did not respect the community’s traditions and that they [Hamas] wanted to reform people now is an insult to the community,” she added.

With regards to its effects on education, some activists are not worried.

“It’s not that it will severely affect the standard of education to either gender,” said a rights activist, Rula Muhtad, to Al Arabiya.

“But we want to understand what the intention of Hamas is, are they being motivated by traditional ideas, do they want to force us to accept their ways?”

She showed disappointment at the lack of decision making involvement by local schools; “this wasn’t an all-inclusive process.”

However, the education ministry stated that private schools had been invited to discuss the legislation, according to the ministry they failed to do so.

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