Global Politics

First female judge in Palestinian religious court

In the next month there'll be a new voice in this courtroom, that of a woman judge. This Palestinian lawyer first this month took the grueling law exams, which most candidates fail, but she, the mother of three children, passed with distinction. She said she's thrilled to be the first woman judge of this court. She wants to show the world that Islam is not extreme. She will preside over a low-tech courtroom with no computers or typewriters, but the Shariya court deals with important matters such as alimony and family matters and custody of children. For the past six years, the new judge has been working for a women's legal center, often working in this courtroom. The chief judge still has to sort out important issues like what the new judge will wear: her ordinary headscarf or a large, flat white hat like the male judges. The chief judge encouraged women to take the legal exam and ignored criticism for that. He says because this court specializes in the family, women judges might even be more qualified to rule in this category than men. But the people waiting in the courtroom corridors are not so sure of that, and some men say they don't like the prospect of a female judge. Others are more welcoming. The woman-judge is aware of these conflicted feelings and knows the strain it could add to her job. But she is quietly confident and hopes she will lead the way for other women.

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