Survey: Palestinian Women Want Men To Help Them Achieve Equal Rights

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - A majority of Palestinian women believe that it is the task of all of society to help them achieve equality and they want more female representation in the government, according to the results of a survey released here on Wednesday.

The poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, showed a mixture of 'liberated' and 'traditional' thought among Palestinian women. A majority said woman should have the right to choose their future husband, but almost half supported the right of a husband to use "physical abuse" to keep his wife in line.

The president of the Bethlehem-based PCPO, Dr. Nabil Kukali, said the most significant results were that 63 percent of the respondents said they believed "achieving equality between men and women is the task of the entire society."

Some 15 percent of women polled said that it is the woman's task only to establish her equality in society, while nearly 22 percent expressed no opinion.

A substantial majority of Palestinian women, some 63.7 percent, believe that women's representation on city and village councils is insufficient, while in another question, 54.3 percent of the women said they agreed that "unfair women's representation in all national institutions has undermined democracy in the Palestinian territories."

Family Matters

There was almost an even split (42-43 percent) among women who believed that issues such as divorce, inheritance and marriage should be dealt with in civil laws enshrined in a Palestinian constitution and those who believe that those issues are already sufficiently dealt with in Islamic Sharia (religious) law.

According to Kukali, in past surveys the percentage of those who believed Islamic law was sufficient was much higher, at about 70 percent. He could not offer an explanation for the change except to say that perhaps it was linked to an increase in problems.

On family matters, an overwhelming majority, 84.6 percent, of Palestinian women respondents supported a woman's right to choose her future husband, 13 percent opposed such a right, while 2.4 percent expressed no opinion.

According to Kukali, a majority of Palestinian women already choose their future mates in the PA territories and are more liberated than their counterparts in other Arab countries due to their role in the Palestinian uprising.

"They are more liberated than others because women have participated in the Intifadah which has raised their status," he said.

But there were still signs of what Kukali described as "traditional" thinking.

Surprisingly, 45.5 percent of the women surveyed supported the right of a husband to use "physical abuse" against his wife if she does not obey him, while 51.1 percent opposed it and 3.4 percent were "non-committal."

A year ago, Kukali said, he posed the same question to male and female respondents and received similar results, which were more understandable, he said. But the only explanation for women responding in such a manner, he said, is that women generally believe they should obey their husbands.

More than 60 percent of the respondents "disagreed with the notion that the Palestinian man's treatment of his wife is in general [inherently violent] while 31.8 percent agreed with the notion, and 7.8 percent expressed reservations to answer the question."

The poll surveyed 500 Palestinian women living in the West Bank aged18 years and older.