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Youth Participate Program: “Female lawyers in the Bar Association in Gaza”

Mariam Abu Amra and Hadeel Jad discussed their joint paper “Female lawyers in the Bar Association in Gaza” on the second episode of Youth Participate Program aired on Alwan Radio Station. The program comes as a part of the “Enhancing the Democratic Participation of Palestinian Youths” funded by the government of Canada.

The young researchers discussed their paper on the program starting with a phone contribution of lawyer and legal researcher Abdallah Sharshara, who depicted the reality in which female lawyers take part in the Bar Association as very minimal relying on indicators released by the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Bar Association. He mentioned that 549 females are registered lawyers, while only 336 of them are practicing, and an additional 431 females training to be lawyers in contrast with a larger number of males in respective categories.

Sharshara also stated that other judiciary positions include 76 judges, only two of which are females. While only three women are appointed prosecutors. According to Sharshara, the problem is not particular to the Gaza Strip, since of all law school graduates in Palestine, only 27% are females, while the remaining 73% are males.

As for the weak presence of females in the judiciary sector, she claims that the society’s stigma towards women working in the judiciary sector and this is an indirect reason. As well as the absence of a legislation that constitutes a female quota in minimum ratios to take membership in the Bar Association council within the association’s charters. He also blames social and cultural obstacles for the weak participation of women, as well as some professional problems hindering the work of lawyers.

Abu Amra states that her motive of selecting this topic for their paper addresses her own background as law student to examine the future that awaits her as a prospective Bar Association member. She claims that the ratios in her paper indicate a narrow margin for participation in the association’s bodies, especially its management, citing that her co-author of the paper, Ms. Jadd, is a media student, which would help mend the stereotypes surrounding women’s involvement in the judiciary sector. She also believes the problem lies within the Bar Association itself, since it is the responsible body with authority to enforce justice; making it the first resort to enforce equal opportunities for men and women.

Jadd also says that the problem her paper discusses, as well as the questions it asks are mainly the relative gap between male and female lawyers in the Bar Association, and why it exists. “How represented are female lawyers in the Bar Association in Palestine?”, she asks. “Does the Bar Association take gender into consideration in its election process and internal bylaws? How can women’s participation be guaranteed in how the syndicate works?”, she added as she explains that her paper discusses the reality of female participation in the Bar Association between 2003, when the first female council member was elected, and the present day in 2019. It also attempts to diagnose the causes and obstacles preventing women lawyers from being given equal opportunities to be elected as men in the Bar council membership or presidency.

Abu Amra also detailed three main headlines in the paper which are as follows. First, women’s representation in the Bar Association and its bodies: the general body comprising of all practicing lawyers who can elect the board of fifteen council members, as well as committees performing specific functions within the Bar Association. The study also shows that women’s participation and representation is dwindling throughout all the previous bodies. Second, Female Lawyers in the Elections between 2003 and 2019, which walks through the election process as well as obstacles hindering it, its results that only one woman was elected as a councilmember. Third, Recommendations to empower women’s participation in the Bar Association, where we talked about how compatible the Palestinian laws are with gender considerations. While the Palestinian basic laws regulating the profession in law 3 of 1999 and the Association’s bylaws do not discriminate based on gender in any of their texts; they do not include an article that urges sufficient representation of women. We also discussed the CEDAW conventions with special focus on women’s right to work. The paper is concluded by findings and recommendations.

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