News from Kayan Feminist Organization

“I want my right”: Discussion on Inheritance in Deir Hanna

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On the 23rd of March 2013, the group of single women of Deir Hanna took the initiative to open a public discussion on inheritance. Gathering around 60 people, the group staged the play, “I Want My Right,” from the Creative Thoughts Forum, Ibhar.

Set in Gaza, the play portrays the fight of three women denied their rights to inheritance. Outcast from their families for opposing cousins, husbands, uncles and brothers, the protagonists find shelter in the house of Aisha, a woman in the same situation who, by going to court, managed to actualize her rights. Slowly losing the courage to fight, Aisha’s sudden death reminds the women of the reason for their banishment. Ashamed and afraid to face their families, the women are strongly encouraged by the housekeepers to pursue their case in court. The struggle for their rights, they are reminded, is not simply a question of money. Rather, inheritance is an issue of respect and of personal and economic security. As single women with limited financial means, the denial of inheritance has left the women without shelter.

With the leadership of Suheir, the Deir Hanna group of single women has set the base for discussion and called for a change in community mentality regarding this issue. Supported by Kayan since 2011, the eleven women of this group are taking on a host of issues facing single women; motivated and enthusiastic, they are working with and within their community. Organizing public workshops on health, nutrition, and cultural practices, as well as monthly excursions to destroyed Palestinian villages to ally sport and political awareness, these women are reaching out to defy the stereotypes of single Arab women.for opposing cousins, husbands, uncles and brothers, the protagonists find shelter in the house of Aisha, a woman in the same situation who, by going to court, managed to actualize her rights. Slowly losing the courage to fight, Aisha’s sudden death reminds the women of the reason for their banishment. Ashamed and afraid to face their families, the women are strongly encouraged by the housekeepers to pursue their case in court. The struggle for their rights, they are remin ded, is not simply a question of money. Rather, inheritance is an issue of respect and of personal and economic security. As single women with limited financial means, the denial of inheritance has left the women without shelter.

Law and tradition

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In Israel, the 1965 Succession law guarantees the right of all women to receive an equal share of inheritance and places the matter under the jurisdiction of the civil Family Court. Nonetheless, Muslim law guarantees a share of inheritance to women (though as highlighted by the play, this allocation is inferior to that of male relatives). If litigants prefer to deal with the Islamic court and agree on an inheritance-related matter, their decision can be validated by this court.

According to Ola Shtewi, Advocate in Kayan’s Legal Department, the denial of inheritance is largely a cultural issue. Regarding land, for example, the family of the deceased may consider that should a woman take her share of the land, it will be distributed to her husband’s family. Women are thus encouraged to leave their share of the land to male relatives and rely on the assets of their own spouses or male relatives.

According to Shtewi, women in this situation often sign a contract abdicating their right to a share. Though such a statement can be invalidated in the civil Family Court if it is established that she was pressured against her will to do so. Yet, few women chose to confront their families, as such conflicts bear heavy social consequences (isolation, as seen in the play) and can constitute a serious potential financial burden (notably regarding court fees).

Inheritance as part of their economic security

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For the women of Dir Hanna, inheritance is a matter of economic security. Single and unemployed, they are often left with the responsibility to care for their parents. Yet, in the Palestinian community, men are still seen as the main breadwinners and in charge of household finances. Hence many women exclude themselves from these issues.

In 2011, Kayan facilitate a conference in Majd-al Krum within the framework of its Active Approach to Personal Economy program. Testimonies given during this conference show that women tend to prioritize the needs of their families at the expense of their own economic security and let the men of the family control the financial aspects of their lives.

Around 20% only of the Arab women in Israel are in the workforce, against around 56% of Jewish women (Israel’s Central Burea

The women activists of Deir Hanna see this as merely the beginning of a longer discussion on inheritance. The debate they catalyzed will surely continue through other original events in the months to come. With growing confidence, the single women of Dir Hanna are determined to have their voices heard.u of Statistics, Tables1.2 and 8.1, figures for 2006) and their wage is, on average, “47% lower than that of Jewish women”.[1] In this situation (compounded by low pay and high overall unemployment), it can be difficult for women to save money for the future. In this context, inheritance plays an important role in their personal economic security. The denial of this right can deprive them of financial resources to maintain their health and home and constitutes a serious threat to their well-being.


[1] http://www.challenge-mag.com/en/article__203/arab_women_in_israel_obstacles_to_emancipation

 

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This entry was posted on April 15, 2013 by in Department of Community Work, General News.
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