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Palestinian female judges gavel down taboos

Palestinian attorney Kholoud al-Faqih defied all norms when she decided to become the first woman to occupy the position of Sharia judge, breaking a long-standing taboo in Arab societies.
Newly appointed Palestinian judge Khouloud Al-Faqih speaks during an interview with Reuters in the West Bank city of Ramallah February 23, 2009. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered last week the appointment of the first two female judges in the Palestinian Authority, one of them Al-Faqih. Picture taken February 23, 2009.

For centuries, men in the Arab world have dominated important state positions, such as in the Sharia judiciary — which settles status issues, such as orphan care, divorce, custody and inheritance among others, based on Islamic legislation. Then Palestinian attorney Kholoud al-Faqih defied the “norms” and decided to open that closed door, becoming the first woman to occupy the position of Sharia judge and to walk down that ambitious path.

On Feb. 15, 2009, a huge surprise was in store for Palestine. President Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree appointing Faqih to the Sharia judiciary. This constituted an unprecedented move in Palestine and the Arab world, as the position was generally monopolized by men.

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