Islamic Law Judges Announce Changes to Palestinian Divorce Law

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Islamic Law Judges Announce Changes to Palestinian Divorce Law
Sun 02-09-2012

For decades, Palestinian women seeking to divorce their husbands risked years of miserable, expensive litigation or lengthy domestic battles as they begged their spouses for permission to leave.

Now Palestinian religious authorities announced sweeping reforms of divorce laws that will make it easier for a woman to end her marriage.
Women will no longer have to prove ill treatment or be forced to spend years in costly litigation.

"In Islamic law, the relation between spouses should be based on tenderness, love and understanding," said Sheikh Yousef al-Dais, head of the Islamic courts in the Palestinian Authority, as he announced the changes Thursday. "If there's hatred between them, should we force them to stay together?"

Under Palestinian law, women cannot unilaterally demand a divorce. That is still the privilege of men, who can divorce their wives without recourse to a court.

Instead, a woman must ask her husband for permission to end the marriage or go to court and prove he has treated her poorly.

The pressure to update divorce rules appeared to have been prompted by an August incident in which a man killed his wife by slashing her throat in a marketplace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The wife had battled judges to grant her a divorce. Her husband is now in prison. The incident provoked widespread outrage in a culture where violence against women mostly takes place in private and is considered an internal, family issue.

The new Palestinian changes won't apply in Gaza, ruled by the Islamic Hamas, the bitter rival of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority that rules over Palestinians in the West Bank.