Conflict Effects on the Palestinian Gender Relations



Gender relations are not static but dynamic since they are affected by social, economic, cultural, and political factors. The circumstances of society in a historical age have formed and redefined these relationships. However, major, sudden, and violent events can lead to enormous gender imbalances. One can observe these phenomena in many societies around the world. Wars, revolutions, natural disasters, and economic restructuring have caused a significant modification of the prevalent perception of what is masculine and feminine. In addition to what issues women and men are capable of doing in public and private life.

Gender Relations Under Occupation

One of the major events transforming gender relations is living under a long occupation. Until recently, the dominant position emphasizes that the participation of women in the national struggle can positively affect their access to policy rights. Also, it increased public participation. As Yuval Davis noted “clear sexual division in war, however, usually disappears when there is no clear difference between the “battlefront and the homefront.” These changes could not be applied in an Arab and predominantly Muslim society such as the Palestinian Territories. Rather, domestic politics and oppression through the Israeli occupation have emphasized more traditional gender roles. Following the Oslo agreements, the 1994 agreement came with the disappointing representatives of the women in the parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council, and the lack of access by women to high positions in the Palestinian National Authority.

The role of the extended family is growing in Gaza thanks to various economic and social relations. This has an impact on the identification of gender roles, methods of breeding children, marriage decisions, and the number of children in a family. It also has a direct impact on women’s and men’s lives. The following section discusses some of these phenomena that are evident in Palestinian society


One effect of the occupation is that the Israeli regime restricted people and goods through screening points and curfews. In order to move from one place to another, they should have special permits from the occupier. A good thing, it appears women can move easily and get permission to enter or leave a given area. Women are less dangerous in Israel’s eyes and therefore less important seems to be the need to restrict them. At the first glance, this seems to favor more mobile women; but the intensive use of checkpoints and the demolition of Palestinian cities and villages cast doubts about how women can leave their homes and local communities and take part in public and political actions.

Mobility has generally been restricted to meeting their basic needs which affected women’s participation ability in public life. Checkpoints have prevented students, men, and women, who live in villages from going to school or the workplace. And even from living a normal life in certain cities with universities like Gaza, Nablus, Ramallah, or Jenin. The occupation forced many of them to live in a cheap houses away from their families; imposing on them a different way of life. This seems particularly good on the surface for the young people, who are free of their family’s wider patriarchal authority for the first time in their lives. But a deeper look proves the other way around, young women suffer from increasing social censorship. They could very easily fall prey to bad rumors that could take them and all other young women away from university enrollment and live in a far-flung place. Consequently, women concentrate on working in schools close to their place of residence, and they mostly study traditional topics even in an insufficient environment.


The dire poverty Palestinian society experience is a major contribution to changing gender relations. The unemployment rate is widespread among men, forcing local women to leave their jobs for men who can no longer live as a burden on the Palestinian economy. On the other hand, financial requirements push women into new occupations that were previously socially unacceptable to them. However, it doesn’t correctly assess the number of housemakers and women street vendors as well as the domestic economic contribution helping Palestinians deal with today’s situation.

Women are not favored in emergencies

The Second Intifada forced many governmental and non-governmental organizations to implement emergency aid programs. While such programs, to relieve severe human suffering, are important for the affected families, women remain the worst category affected. Forcing such organizations to deviate correspondingly from their two-fold development agenda. Help programs, especially concerning women’s participation in politics, maintain the situation and do not allow for any variation in the traditional reality of gender roles. These situations have a significant impact on the future of gender relations.

In the end, women shouldered all these burdens. They have strengthened their traditional role, which the Israeli regime restricted to reproduction. It prevents them from taking part in political life. Women have historically had the least of these assets. They are in an even harder situation with lower income and less control.

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