Hamas introduced new rules Monday banning girls and boys over the age of eight from sharing mixed-sex classrooms starting at the beginning of the next school year. The new rules from the Education Ministry of the Islamist Hamas movement will also bar men from teaching at girls’ schools.
Reuters reports that the new law will impact all schools in the region including private schools, Christian schools, and schools from by the UN. Gaza’s public schools are already largely segregated by gender. The majority of schools in the region are managed by either Hamas or the UN.
Conservative proponents of the new rules see their passage as a means of enshrining Palestinian values into law. Critics in the area have lambasted Hamas for imposing its ideology upon all of society, but most Palestinians have already accepted gender segregation as a part of their education. The passage of the law largely appeals to the region’s most conservative elements who are attracted by the idea of their government espousing tenants of their traditions and beliefs. It softens the criticism that the organization was becoming too moderate.
The BBC expresses doubt over whether the rules will be enforced. Hamas has previously banned men from cutting women’s hair and prohibited women from smoking pipes but opted out of fully enforcing the measures.
Hamas was founded in 1987 as an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The UN, US, and Israel all regard Hamas as a terrorist organization. The movement has attracted ire for its use of rockets against Israeli civilian populations, its financial support for terrorist operations, and waging war from close proximity to children, daring the West to spill young blood when launching any retaliatory strikes.
The Gaza Strip is a coastal territory that borders Israel and Egypt. Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007, a year after winning popular elections. Hamas’s move to ban mixed-sex schools may not have much effect on the political landscape in the region.
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