- The presence of a chaperone for a female student taking driving lessons from a male instructor in Gaza is essential
- While this move is largely rejected by most driving schools, a few see this as an opportunity to increase revenue
- The matter is taken by religious judges, some of whom believe the policy is not necessary
The Gaza Strip that is lodged between the borders of Israel and Egypt, saw the rise of a new debate that revolved around new regulations for driving lessons taken by women. The Palestinian territory has been under the rule of an Islamist organization, Hamas, since June 2007, whose internal intelligence police want to enforce stricter laws regarding women.
According to Hamas police, women must be accompanied by someone while taking driving lessons if their driving instructor happens to be a man. Gaza is nowhere near as strict on Islamic morality issues regarding women as Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is why many driving schools in the strip are appalled by this new development. Driving instructor Mohammed al-Hattab was perplexed when the cops stopped him in the middle of his lessons because he was alone in the car with a woman.
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Experts believe this new development is totally unnecessary because all reputed driving schools in Gaza exercise a compulsory ‘morality test’ before hiring instructors. Moreover, no school will entertain sexual offences from employees since it will largely mar their reputations. Even against this backdrop, Hamas authorities remain stubborn.
This new intention for Hamas authorities to follow the tenets of Islam which dictate that every woman in public must be accompanied by her husband or a male family member is surprisingly welcomed by a few driving schools, who have seized this opportunity for improving business. In Gaza, anyone can suffice as a chaperone for driving lessons, and fathers are more willing to send their daughters to learn driving if their safety is ensured. A few women that were interviewed admit they feel more at ease with the presence of an escort if a male instructor is conducting the lessons.
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Religious judges like Hassan al-Juju against the use of the term mahram for something so inconsequential is a ‘driving school’ chaperone, which the Hamas police loosely employ to enforce the policy. They believe it dilutes the holy sentiment that the word represents. Mahram is any man who serves as a guardian for a woman when she embarks on the religious journey to Hajj, and his job is to protect the woman from any predicament.
-by Saurabh Bodas, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter:@saurabhbodas96