Women who have not had sex with their husbands will be able to ask for a divorce under new legislation that came into effect on Monday, the head of Islamic courts in the Palestinian Authority said.
Sheikh Yousef Ideis announced the implementation of the “bold” new law at a meeting with supreme court judges and the deputy governor of Nablus.
Some Muslim couples choose to sign a marriage contract without an engagement, but do not live together immediately. This gives the couple greater social freedoms than engaged couples to go out together without being accompanied by relatives.
In such cases, providing the couple have not had sex, women are able to divorce their husbands under the new law, which only applies to Muslims.
Marriage, divorce, child custody and alimony are regulated by religious courts in the West Bank and Gaza, and church courts hear cases for Palestinian Christians.
Christian courts rarely grant divorces either to men or women. Under Islamic law, men can easily divorce their wives but it is an arduous, expensive and lengthy process for women to divorce.
The law will only apply in the West Bank.
The head of Islamic courts in Gaza Hassan al-Juju told Ma’an in August that there had been no coordination on reforms to the divorce laws. “No one consulted us on this issue.”
Al-Juju said Islamic authorities in Gaza would be happy to study the new law if it was discussed with them, but as they had not been consulted it would only apply in the West Bank.
Laws in the West Bank and Gaza are drawn from several legal systems as a result of various foreign occupations. Jordanian law is applied in the West Bank, and Egyptian laws are in force in Gaza.
Efforts to unify the legislative framework and enact Palestinian laws have been hampered by Israel’s occupation and detention of lawmakers, and the internal division which led to separate governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.