Palestinian Authority

The Palestinian Authority is not ranked in the 2012 SIGI due to missing data for one or more SIGI variables. However, the country note below sets out information and data relating to variables where this is available information.

The Palestinian Authority is ranked 114th out of 187 countries in the 2011 Human Development Index (HDI) with a score of 0.641. The Palestinian Authority is not ranked under the Gender Inequality Index or in the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index.

Discriminatory Family Code: 

Personal Status Laws are based on religious laws inherited from Jordan (the 1976 Personal Status Law, applicable in the West Bank) and Egypt (the unmodified 1954 Family Law, applicable in Gaza).[10] In both cases, these laws contain discriminatory provisions in the areas of marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance.[11] Matters relating to personal status are handled by Sharia courts for Muslims, and ecclesiastical courts for Christians.[12]

Within the West Bank, the legal age for marriage is 15 for girls and 16 for boys; in Gaza, it is 17 for girls and 18 for boys.[13] According to data held by the UN, in 2004, 13.5% of girls aged 15 to 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed, but overall, prevalence of early marriage appears to be declining.[14]  The territorial scattering of the Palestinian Authority has been reported as distorting marriage patterns by making it more difficult for people to choose spouses from other territories.[15] Women cannot marry without permission from their closest male relative on the paternal side.[16] 

Polygamy is legally accepted in the Palestinian Authority, in accordance with Islamic law that allows Muslim men to take up to four wives, but is practised by less than 4% of men.[17]  It is unclear if there are any conditions placed on this right. 

Analysis of Islamic Personal Status Laws, undertaken by Uhlman, reveals a discrimination against women with regards to parental authority.[18] Fathers are considered to be the natural guardian of children, whereas women are merely physical custodians.[19] In the event of divorce, mothers normally have the right to physical custody of sons until the age of ten and of daughters until the age of 12.[20] These periods can be extended by a judge, but divorced women forfeit custody rights if they remarry.[21] Men are able to repudiate their wives, i.e. divorce them unilaterally, whereas women are only able to initiate divorce under certain limited circumstances (including illness and desertion).[22] The only other option for a woman wishing to divorce is to obtain a ‘khula’ divorce, whereby the wife sacrifices her dowry and financial maintenance.[23]  Even here, the divorce cannot be obtained without the husband’s consent.[24] Orthodox and Protestant Christian women are able to obtain divorces under certain circumstances, whereas Catholic women have no right to divorce.[25] Women cannot confer citizenship to their children.[26]

Sharia law provides for detailed and complex calculations of inheritance shares.[27] Women may inherit from their father, mother, husband or children and, under certain conditions, from other family members.[28] However, their share is generally smaller than that to which men are entitled.[29] Daughters, for example, inherit half as much as sons.[30] Women are sometimes pressured into transferring their entire inheritance to their brothers or other male relatives. [31] Azzouni reports some occurrences of women killed when attempting to assert their inheritance rights.[32] Christian women married to Muslim men cannot inherit from their husbands.[33]

[10] Azzouni (2010) p.360 [11] Azzouni (2010) p.360 [12] Azzouni (2010) p.364 [13] Azzouni (2010) p.369 [14] United Nations Population Division / DESA (2008); Rashad et al (2005) p.3 [15] Azzouni (2010) p.369 [16] Azzouni (2010) p.368 [17] Azzouni (2010) p.369 [18] Uhlman (2004) [19] Uhlman (2004) [20] Azzouni (2010) p.370 [21] Azzouni (2010) p.370 [22] Azzouni (2010) p.370 [23] Azzouni (2010) p.370 [24] Azzouni (2010) p.370 [25] Azzouni (2010) p.370 [26] Azzouni (2010) p.363 [27] UN-HABITAT (2005) p.11 [28] UN-HABITAT (2005) p.11 [29] UN-HABITAT (2005) p.11 [30] UN-HABITAT (2005) p.11 [31] Azzouni (2010) p.374 [32] Azzouni (2010) p.371 [33] Azzouni (2010) p.369

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

As in many conflict-affected areas, violence against women tends to be exacerbated across the territories.

At present, there are no laws to protect women from domestic violence.[34] Prevalence is thought to be high, exacerbated by difficult living conditions.[35] A 2006 survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics on domestic violence showed that 61.7% of married women indicated they had been psychologically abused by their husbands, 23.3% per cent said they had been beaten, and 10.9% had experienced sexual violence.[36] Few incidents are reported, as victims face pressure from their families and wider society not to report abuse, for fear of bringing shame on the family.[37] Lack of economic independence and fear of social ostracism also leave women wishing to escape an abusive relationship with few options.[38] In addition, the police and judiciary tend to see domestic violence as a private matter, and are reluctant to intervene, and Palestinians’ trust in the courts and law enforcement agenciesis usually low.[39] Three shelters for victims of domestic violence are in operation in the West Bank; there are none in Gaza Strip.[40]

Rape is illegal in the Palestinian Authority, but the law does not recognise spousal rape.[41] No legislation protects women from sexual harassment in the workplace.[42]

So-called honour killings of women are also known to occur:  according to Azzouni they have increased in prevalence in recent years.[43] Amnesty International reports five such killings recorded in 2009, although the actual prevalence may be much higher, as most ‘honour’ crimes go unreported.[44] Under both the Jordanian penal code (applicable in the West Bank) and the Egyptian penal code (applicable in Gaza), perpetrators of honour crimes are accorded lenient sentences.[45] There are some reports of women and girls who have been raped being killed by relatives, in order to protect the family’s ‘honour’, and of Christian women killed because they have married Muslim men.[46] A decree was issued in May 2011 by the Palestinian Authority putting an end to the leniency provided in the Penal Code for perpetrators of “honour” crimes.

There is no law in place preventing trafficking in persons.[47] The Palestinian Authority does not appear to be a source, transit or destination for trafficking in persons.[48]

It is reported that female genital mutilation is practiced in Gaza, but there are no reports on the number of women affected.[49]

Azzouni reports that women face social and familial pressure to give birth to a large number of children, making it difficult to make independent decisions regarding contraception.[50] According to UNFPA, 50% of women questioned reported using some form of contraception (including so-called ‘traditional’ methods).[51] Access to healthcare in Gaza, including reproductive healthcare, is limited.[52] Abortion is only legal in cases where the pregnant woman’s life is in danger.[53]

[34] Azzouni (2010) p.367 [35] Housing and Land Rights Network / HABITAT INTERNATIONAL COALITION, UNITED NATIONS Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2004) p.87 [36] Azzouni (2010) p.371 [37] ECOSOC (2003) p.190 [38] ECOSOC (2003) p.190 [39] ECOSOC (2003) p.190; Azzouni (2010) p.365 [40] Azzouni (2010) p.371 [41] US Department of State (2010) [42] Azzouni (2010) p.377 [43] Amnesty International (2010) p.256; Azzouni (2010) p.365 [44] Amnesty International (2010) p.256; Azzouni (2010) p.371 [45] Azzouni (2010) p.365 [46] Housing and Land Rights Network / HABITAT INTERNATIONAL COALITION, UNITED NATIONS Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2004) p.93; Azzouni (2010) p.369 [47] US Department of State (2010) [48] US Department of State (2010) [49] UNICEF (2005) p.3 [50] Azzouni (2010) p.383 [51] UNFPA (2010) p.97 [52] Amnesty International (2010) p.254; UNFPA (2010) pp.71-73 [53] Azzouni (2010) p.383

Son Bias: 

According to UNFPA, under-five mortality rates are higher for boys than for girls.[54] Gender-disaggregated data for immunisation rates is not available, but overall, immunisation levels are very high, according to UNICEF (99%).[55] Gross primary school enrolment rates are equal for boys and girls (93%), while at secondary level, girls’ enrolment rates (96%) are higher than boys (91%).[56] Female students also outnumber males in most colleges and universities, although Azzouni reports that this is because families who can afford to often choose to send their sons abroad to study.[57] 

The figures above do not seem to indicate son preference in relation to early childhood care and access to education.

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in Gaza Strip in 2012 is 1.04. In West Bank this ratio in the same year is also 1.04.[58] There is no evidence to suggest that missing women is a problem in these territories.

[54] UNFPA (2010) p.103 [55] UNICEF (2007) p.112 [56] UNICEF (2007) p.120 [57] Azzouni (2010) p.374 [58] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

Women have the legal right to access to land and access to property other than land, but female ownership is low because of social norms that limit women’s economic activity.[59] A Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) survey from 1999 indicated that only 5%of women owned (or shared ownership of) a piece of land, and less than 7.7% owned (or shared ownership of) property other than land.[60] However, reportedly it has become more common in recent years for women to rent or purchase houses or apartments on their own, particularly if they are divorced or widowed.[61] It is also reported to be very difficult for Palestinians to obtain construction permits for private housing.[62] 

Women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have legal access to credit, and are free to dispose of their income independently.  But as so few women own property or land, they lack the collateral needed to secure credit.[63] In addition, in reality, women often do not have control over their own income, and social norms that see the husband as the head of the family and responsible for all financial activities related to it hinder them from engaging in economic activity and concluding financial contracts. [64]

[59] Azzouni (2010) p.371 [60] Quoted in Azzouni (2010) p.373 [61] Azzouni (2010) p.384 [62] Housing and Land Rights Network / HABITAT INTERNATIONAL COALITION, UNITED NATIONS Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2004) p.87 [63] Azzouni (2010) p.373 [64] Azzouni (2010) p.373

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

The non-contiguous geography of the West Bank and Gaza Strip limits movement for both women and men.[65] Permits are required for Palestinians who wish to work in a non-contiguous territory, and families prefer to put men forward to apply for such permits, limiting women’s employment opportunities.[66] Families may also restrict the movements of their daughters out of concern for their security.[67] However, women do face particular restrictions in that government officials often require women to provide written permission from their male guardian in order to apply for a passport, even though this is not legally required.[68]  In addition, as shown by Azzouni’s study, Egyptian and Jordanian family laws applicable in the Palestinian Authority contain provisions that can force a woman to return to the house of her husband, should she have left him against his will. [69]

 Freedom of expression is restricted in the Palestinian Authority, and access of foreign journalists into the Palestinian Authority is limited.[70] Freedom of assembly is also restricted within the Palestinian Authority.[71] Freedom of association is not however restricted, and there are active NGOs.[72]

Palestinian women and men have equal voting rights and the same right to stand for election.[73] Article 4 of the 2005 electoral law required each party list to include at least one woman among the first three names, at least one woman among the next four names, and at least one woman in every five names thereafter.[74] In 2006, 12.9% of those elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) were women.[75] However, overall there are few women in senior decision-making positions in the Palestinian Authority.[76] In 2011, the first woman secretary general of a political party was elected.

There are a large number of active women’s rights organisations in the Palestinian Authority, campaigning on a range of issues, including pressing for changes to discriminatory legislation, the introduction of legislation covering domestic violence, and in support of women’s personal autonomy and security.[77]

Discrimination in employment on the basis of gender is prohibited under the Palestinian Labour Law. Women are entitled to 10 weeks’ paid maternity leave.[78] There are no legal restrictions on women’s choice of careers, but women can face pressure from their families not to pursue certain careers.[79]

[65] Amnesty International (2010) p.182; Freedom House (2010) [66] Azzouni (2010) p.368 [67] Azzouni (2010) p.372 [68] Azzouni (2010) p.367 [69] Azzouni (2010) p.367 [70] Amnesty International (2010) pp.255-256 [71] Freedom House (2010) [72] Freedom House (2010) [73] Azzouni (2010) p.378 [74] Azzouni (2010) p.378 [75] Azzouni (2010) p.366 [76] Azzouni (2010) p.378 [77] Azzouni (2010) pp.366, 371, 381 [78] Azzouni (2010) p.376 [79] Azzouni (2010) p.374


The West Bank and Gaza Strip are a group of non-contiguous territories administered by the Palestinian Authority.[1] The income level of the Palestinian Authority is not ranked by the World Bank. The majority of the population is Muslim, but there is also a small Christian minority.[2]

The situation of women and men in the Palestinian Authority Is characterised by widespread poverty is, poorly enforced laws, security concerns, and restrictions of movement. In addition, a complex mixture of laws and regulations are in place, making it very difficult for women to fully ascertain their legal rights.[3] In total, up to four sets of laws may govern the lives of Palestinians: those of the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt and Jordan.[4] Palestinian women also face discrimination within Palestinian society.[5] Overall, despite high levels of education and activity within civil society, women remain underrepresented in public life, in part due to the societal norms that place pressure on women (and men) to conform to traditional gender roles.[6] In addition, it has historically been difficult for Palestinian women to have their voices heard within the society, when they have spoken out against gender discrimination and violence.’[7] However, according to interviews with women’s rights activists from the Palestinian Authority included in a 2010 UNFPA report, a gradual change in gender roles and relations, towards greater equality, has been observed.[8]

The Palestinian Basic Law mentions equality of all citizens, regardless of gender or other listed social attributes. The Basic Law also enshrines Sharia as the principal source of law. President Abbas endorsed the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2009, despite having any binding character under international law. As Azzouni states, it ‘is unclear what effect this move will have on Palestinian laws.’[9]

[1] Freedom House (2010); Azzouni (2010) p.360 [2] World Council of Churches (2003) [3] ECOSOC (2003) p.191 [4] Azzouni (2010) p.362 [5] Azzouni (2010) p.360 [6] Freedom House (2010); Housing and Land Rights Network / HABITAT INTERNATIONAL COALITION, UNITED NATIONS Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2004) p.104 [7] Housing and Land Rights Network / HABITAT INTERNATIONAL COALITION, UNITED NATIONS Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2004) pp.73, 104 [8] UNFPA (2010) p.44 [9] Azzouni (2010) p.366


Amnesty International (2010) Amnesty International Report 2009, State of the World’s Human Rights, London: Amnesty International. (accessed 8 November 2010)

Azzouni, Suheir (2010) ‘Palestine – Palestinian Authority and Israeli-Occupied Territories’ in Sanja Kelly and Julia Breslin, eds., (2010) Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa, New York, NY: Freedom House; Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at (accessed 14 March 2012)

Emory University School of Law, Palestine/Palestinian Territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip, (accessed 6 March 2011)

Freedom House (2010) Freedom in the World Country Reports: Israeli-Occupied Territories, online edition, (accessed 6 March 2011)

Housing and Land Rights Network / HABITAT INTERNATIONAL COALITION, UNITED NATIONS Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2004) ‘Women’s right to adequate housing and land. Middle East/North Africa’, Proceedings of the Alexandria consultation, Cairo, the Alexandria consultations. Available at (accessed 10 February 2011)

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), (n.d.), country profile: PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES, OCCUPIED,,%20OCCUPIED/Articles (accessed 6 March 2011)

Rashad, Hoda, Magued Osman, and Farzaneh Roudi-Fahimi (2005), Marriage in the Arab World, PRB (Population Reference Bureau), Washington DC. Available at (accessed 3 March 2011)

Uhlman, K. (2004) ‘Overview of Shari’a and Prevalent Customs in Islamic Societies: Divorce and Child Custody’, Expert Law, (accessed 3 March 2011)

UNDP (2010) Human Development Report 2010: Occupied Palestinian Territories, online edition, (accessed 6 March 2011)

United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at, accessed 29 February 2012.

United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (2003) ‘INTEGRATION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND THE GENDER PERSPECTIVE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, submitted in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 2002/52 Addendum 1 International, regional and national developments in the area of violence against women 1994-2003’, E/CN.4/2003/75/Add.1, ECOSOC, New York

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (2010) State of the World’s Population 2010. From conflict and crisis to renewal: generations of change, UNFPA, New York

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) (2005) ‘Islam, land & property research series’, Paper 6: Islamic inheritance laws and systems, Nairobi, Kenya. Available at (accessed 10 February 2011)

UNICEF (2005) ‘Changing a harmful social convention: female genital mutilation/cutting’, Innocenti Digest, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, UNICEF, Florence

UNICEF (2007) State of the World’s Children : the Double Dividend of Gender Equality, New York: UNICEF

United Nations Population Division / DESA (2008) World Marriage Data. Available to download at (accessed 11 October 2010)

US Department of State (2010) ‘2009 Country Reports on Human Rights: Israel and the Occupied Territories’, (accessed 6 March 2011)

World Council of Churches (2003) ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories: still home to Christians’, 24 June 2003, (accessed 6 March 2011)

World Economic Forum (2010) ‘The Global Gender Gap Index 2010 rankings’, (accessed 22 November 2010)

World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at (accessed 2 March 2012)


Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
Legal Age of Marriage: 
Early Marriage: 
Parental Authority: 
Violence Against Women (laws): 
Reproductive Integrity: 
Attitudes Towards Domestic Violence: 
Missing Women: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
Access To Land: 
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
Access To Public Space: 
Political Participation: 
Political Quotas: