This chapter sheds light on the family law debate in Palestine following the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (1994). It elaborates on the public debate and political contestation over attempts to reform the ‘Islamic’ family law during the second half of the 1990s. It describes and analyses the various positions, articulations and styles of argumentation adopted by many actors involved in the debate.
In Palestine, as in other Muslim-majority countries, diverging assumptions about the role of the Shar’ia, Islam and gender were put forward as expressions of the ‘social will’ that each group claimed to represent. The paper analyses the deep divisions that split Palestinians over conceptualising the desired gender relations organised by the reformed family law, including its procedures and institutional organisation.
While these debates took place two decades ago, they are still relevant to current times because the central issue of family law reform has not yet been resolved and the contestations around gender rights continue in the context of besieged Palestinian authority, severe economic hardships, and continuing brutal Israeli occupation.