KHAN YOUNIS, GAZA (APRIL 2, 2013) (REUTERS) - New rules from the Education Ministry of the Islamist Hamas movement ruling the Gaza Stripwill bar men from teaching at girls' schools and mandate separate classes for boys and girls from the age of nine.
The law, published on Monday (April 1), would go into effect next school year and applies throughout the coastal enclave, including in private, Christian-run and United Nations schools.
"Palestinian educators praised this decision from the beginning and we have had many workshops, lecturers and meetings with educational experts and they all recommended this system which separates boys and girls from the age of nine (at schools). And the culture of Palestinian society demanded this too," said Waleed Mezher, the Education Ministry's legal adviser.
Critics of the new measures say the Islamist movement is trying to force its ideology on society, but proponents say they merely want to codify conservative Palestinian values into law.
"This means a continuous separation between the two genders on the basis of preventing the mixing and on the basis of Islamising the community, as the minister of education said and as the rulers who introduced this rule said," said Zeinab al-Ghoneimi.
Private and Christian schools, where classes are mixed until high school, would be the most affected by the decision. Gaza's government-run schools were already mostly gender-segregated.
Rights activists have criticised moves by Hamas's government in recent years to impose Islamic dress on female lawyers and school girls, ban men from working as hairdressers for women and interrogate couples walking in Gaza's streets.