A Hamas-run Islamic court in the Gaza Strip has ruled that women require the permission of a male guardian to travel, The Associated Press reported on Monday.
The decision by the Sharia Judicial Council, issued Sunday, says an unmarried woman may not travel without the permission of her “guardian,” which would usually refer to her father or another older male relative.
Permission would need to be registered at the court, but the man would not be required to accompany the woman on the trip, according to AP.
The language of the ruling strongly implied that a married woman would not be able to travel without her husband's approval.
Hassan al-Jojo, head of the Supreme Judicial Council, told AP that the ruling was “balanced” and consistent with Islamic and civil laws. He dismissed what he called “artificial and unjustified noise” on social media about the edict.
The ruling sparked criticism on social media, where many accused Hamas of rolling back women's rights. The Palestinian People's Party, a small left-wing group, called on Hamas to reverse the decision.
Hamas has enforced a stringent interpretation of Islamic law in Gaza since violently taking power there in 2007.
The group has banned women and teenagers from smoking hooks in public, ordered that women's clothing stores are not allowed to have dressing rooms, men cannot have hairdressing salons for women and that mannequins shaped like women must be dressed in modest clothing.
The group also introduced a strict dress code for female university students, demanding that they wear “modest clothing” and has also passed a law stipulating that lashes can be given as punishment for certain offences.
Despite these measures, however, Hamas has come under fire from extremist Salafists in Gaza who say Hamas is not strict enough for their liking.