MUSAWA Defeats Discrimination against Women in Holding Public Office
Article (9) of the Palestinian Basic Law states that “Palestinians shall be equal before the law and the judiciary, without distinction based upon race, sex, color, religion, political views or disability”; and paragraph four of article (26) of the same law states that “Palestinians shall have the right to participate in political life, both individually and in groups. They shall have the following rights in particular: 4- To hold public office and positions, in accordance with the principle of equal opportunities”.
Beginning of the problem
On 25/9/2017, MUSAWA received a written complaint from the citizen: Ms. Huda Taysir Odwan, reporting that she applied to the announcement of hiring judges at the Magistrate Court, which was published during May 2017 and that she passed both, the written exam and the oral interview, and that she got the second place among the qualified candidates for the job.
The complainant added that she was the only one who was qualified for the job, out of six other women applying, and that her name was listed within the final disclosure of appointment that was published on Sep 12th, 2017 and referred, on September 20th, 2017, to the Legislative Council- Gaza, for validation.
The complainant mentioned, in her compliment, that she was shocked to discover that her name was removed from the validated disclosure; and when she asked the High Judiciary Council and the Ministry of Justice, in Gaza, about the reasons behind that, the Secretary-General of the government replied that the reason is “being a woman”; and women are unwelcomed to work in the Judicial Service.
In the light of MUSAWA’s role in protecting the rights and the fundamental freedoms of Palestinian citizens, we followed up with this case and intervened on three levels. 1. We sent a legal memo, on Oct 5th 2017, to Dr. Ahmad Bahar, the First Deputy Head of the Legislative Council, describing the complaint’s details, and asking for cancelling the excluding decision against the complainant, and to enable her to work as judge in the Magistrate Court duly. 2. MUSAWA released a position paper, in cooperation with several civil society organizations, to reaffirm women’s constitutional right to hold public office according to both, the Palestinian Basic Law and International Conventions and Treaties. 3. MUSAWA provided the complainant with legal counseling, advising her to refer to the judiciary channels and challenge the decision of excluding her and to ask for her right to work as a judge in the Magistrate Court according to the delimitation decision. The complainant was convinced with MUSAWA’s opinion and submitted a lawsuit to the court against excluding her name from the list. On September 4, 2018, the court ruled in her favor to serve as a judge in the Magistrate Court.
With feelings of pride for succeeding in obtaining her right, Adv. Huda Odwan sent MUSAWA a message of thanks for their support. In her letter, she wrote: “I am writing to you filled with pride and tribute for the efforts you made to help me regain my right in serving as a judge in the Magistrate Court. You were amongst the first institutions that supported my case, either with your legal efforts, or with your position in the media that refused excluding me from this office for being a woman; and this indicates that you deserve your roles that flourish every day through you and your achievements. Today I am pleased to thank you all for the wonderful concerted efforts though you have never wanted to be thanked for”.
As MUSAWA shares the feelings of pride with Adv. Huda Odwan, we reaffirm the right of citizenship, integrity, and equality in serving in public services. MUSAWA also reaffirms the importance of the real and practical commitment to the rights and freedoms guaranteed for all citizens by the Basic Law and the international legitimacy. Moreover, MUSAWA reaffirms its pledge to continue the hard work to protect the Palestinian citizens’ rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Basic Law, charters, conventions, and the international declarations.