Context

In Palestine, women’s housing, land and property (HLP) rights are complicated by the on-going military occupation and periodic but serious military operations. House demolitions, forced evictions, land confiscation, the Wall and many other issues lead to displacement and have an impact on women’s ability to enjoy their HLP rights.

HLP rights are made up of a complex patchwork of laws depending on where you live. Ottoman, British, Jordanian and Egyptian legislation all applies in different areas of Palestine and the West Bank is still under extensive Israeli military legislation. In East Jerusalem, Israeli domestic law applies as a result of Israel’s illegal occupation of the eastern part of the city. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has introduced legislative changes in land law, but they have not been implemented.

Palestine is a conservative and patriarchal society. Islamic law and the Palestinian legal system do not officially prevent women from owning or leasing homes. However, cultural attitudes mean that men are the named individual on official documents relating to land and housing tenure or ownership. This means that it is through relationships with husbands, fathers and brothers that the majority of Palestinian women secure housing tenure.

Mukhtars (traditional leaders/ arbitrators) are used for dispute resolution, for example if a husband and wife divorce or a male family member dies. There are currently no female mukhtars in the Gaza strip and they have little training or awareness of the issue of women’s HLP rights. This leaves even educated and working women vulnerable to losing their homes following death or divorce from their husbands.

In both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, long-standing refugee camps are overcrowded and often lack vital services. Women are particularly affected by unsanitary conditions and the lack of water and other resources in their homes, as usually they have to remain at home caring for children and elderly relatives.

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