Divorce Not Taken Well Among Palestinians But Many Gazan Women Choose 'Freedom', Says Activist

© AFP 2022 / SAID KHATIBA Palestinian woman flies akite on the beach of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 11, 2021
A Palestinian woman flies akite on the beach of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 11, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.03.2022
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More than 4,300 divorce cases were registered in the Gaza Strip last year, with most petitions coming from women. However, a local activist says that many remain in problematic relations due to dire economic conditions and their dependence on their spouses.
Nour Al-Salhi, a 38-year-old Palestinian from the Gaza Strip, says she went through an ordeal until she finally managed to get divorced from her husband, to whom she had been married for 14 years.
The woman recalls that when she had just filed her divorce suit, her husband did everything "to make her life miserable" and that often meant that Al-Salhi was prevented from seeing her four children.
Now, three years after gaining her freedom, the 38-year-old has become an activist, fighting for women's rights.

No Rights

Al-Salhi says she is advising many Palestinian women who are coping with problematic relationships. She also claims her society has a long way to go before women obtain rights.

"Very often, our society views women as a property. Traditionally, women have been taught to serve men and take orders. They are also trained to be patient and accept their husbands even if they are violent or aggressive," the activist said. "Unfortunately, many women choose to stay with these men," she added.

Al-Salhi doesn't blame them for their choices. In 2021, unemployment and poverty rates in the Gaza Strip reached 85 and 59 percent respectively. More than 65 percent of the unemployed are women. They normally serve as housewives and are dependent on their spouses, or have little chances to find an alternative source of income. Additionally, they can't count on the government to provide them with the assistance they need.
A view shows the remains of a tower building destroyed by Israeli missile strikes in the recent cross-border violence between Palestinian militants and Israel, following Israel-Hamas truce, in Gaza City May 21, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.02.2022
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The Palestinian Authority does try to extend a helping hand. According to the law, every divorced woman is entitled to $200 per month, but in a society where women often have three or more children, this amount is barely able to keep them afloat.
However, insufficient funds are far from the only reason women remain attached to undesirable spouses. Another is fear of rejection in a society that doesn't often accept divorced women and tends to isolate them.
"Our society has stereotypes. They view these women negatively, and this often keeps those women in problematic relations," said the activist. "But there are also those who find in themselves the power to obtain their freedom," she added.

Way Out

The year 2021 saw more than 4,300 divorce cases in Gaza; most of them came from women. The divorce rate mounted to 23.6 percent, compared to 15.6 percent in 2020. The activist says that the spike in numbers has been attributed to the fact that the dire economic conditions have aggravated tensions within families and prompted women to look for a way out.
She admits that their lives away from their ex-husbands will not be easy. Al-Salhi says she briefs those who come to seek her advice on the difficulties they will be encountering after getting their independence. But freedom is worth the ordeal, the woman insists.
"If there is a will, there is a way. Any woman can work and find her way out. She only needs to want it."
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