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Women and the Draft Constitution of Palestine (2011)

The Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling has published a gender analysis of the third draft constitution of Palestine.  The in-depth legal study draws on comparisons with constitutions from the Arab world and beyond, and raises questions over the equality, protection and guarantee of rights for women within the existing draft constitution for Palestine. 

As a legal scholar and gender analyst, the author, Hallie Ludsin, asks important questions over the hierarchy of different articles, particularly those relating to women’s rights, women’s equality before the law and the relationship between Shari’a law, the constitution and other legislation. 
 
Another important issue raised by the author is the question of formal vs. substantive equality.  She argues that a formalistic approach to equality is likely to maintain patriarchy, and concludes that only the concept of substantive equality allows for transformation of Palestine to a truly egalitarian society that transcends its patriarchal heritage. 
 
Although much of the impact of a Palestinian constitution will depend on its interpretation, through publishing this study, WCLAC seeks to ensure that women are provided with the best possible starting point.  The first step is to ensure that Palestinian women are not overlooked when setting the social, political, legal and governmental framework for the future state of Palestine.  Women’s needs and concerns must be addressed directly by the constitution.  The drafters and the wider society must consider the effects, intended or otherwise, these specific provisions could have on women.
 
This study is a valuable resource for Palestinian law-makers as well as for civil society and authorities across and Arab world which – in the throes of upheaval – is now actively talking about constitutional reform. 
 
The study can be downloaded here.  An Arabic-language summary booklet can be found on WCLAC’s Arabic site.