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Gaza's unmarried couples defy social traditions

Relationships outside marriage remain taboo in Palestinian society, but some are daring to challenge tradition.
Palestinians enjoy the weather on the beach in Gaza City August 23, 2013. Gaza's sandy beach is a favourite spot for locals to relax, especially as most residents cannot afford holidays outside the enclave. Picture taken August 23, 2013. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTX145VO

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Not being able to get basic goods, not having electricity for more than 11 hours a day and not being able to travel easily are familiar hardships the more than 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza face, but these are not the only frustrations. In addition to the strain on Palestinians' lives due to the ongoing Egyptian-Israeli siege, unmarried couples in Gaza are also struggling to maintain their relationships because they cannot easily meet in public.

The taboo of unmarried couples and the complications of communicating directly with one’s partner are new to Palestinian society (and to Middle Eastern society in general). In the impoverished coastal enclave of only 360 square kilometers (139 square miles), it is difficult for a couple to meet without fear of being seen by someone they know. Palestinian tradition prohibits unmarried couples from meeting, although a few families might allow their daughter to meet with a man if he is serious and willing to officially propose to her.

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