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Women's group slams Gaza law on gender segregation

By Ibrahim Barzak

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, April 2 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

In Lebanon, there is no gender segregation law, and private and public schools are allowed to handle the issue as they see fit.

Public and private schools in Morocco are integrated at all levels, except for Quran schools influenced by Salafi preachers espousing a fundamentalist version of Islam.

In the Gulf, the rules generally encourage gender separation in classrooms for native residents. There are also many schools for foreign workers and residents, including Indians, Europeans and others, that allow co-ed classes.

Gaza has 690 schools with 466,000 students. Of those, 397 schools are public, 243 are run by a U.N. aid agency for refugees and 46 are private. The U.N. system has separate schools for boys and girls.

Only four private schools, where boys and girls study together until a later age, would be affected by the law. They are three Christian-run schools and the American International School, with a total enrollment of 3,500. Officials at the schools declined comment on the new law.

In addition to legislation, there has been mounting social and peer pressure on Gaza girls and women to wear headscarves and robes. Earlier this year, a branch of Al-Aqsa University in the southern town of Khan Younis made it a requirement for all female students to wear robes in addition to headscarves.

Al-Ghnaimi said one of her female cousins who studies at the Khan Younis school defies the edict by not wearing a robe, though she does cover her hair with a scarf. Al-Ghnaimi said her cousin sometimes gets stopped at the university gate and is questioned about her attire but so far has faced no repercussions.

AP writers Dalia Nammari in Jerusalem, Sinan Salah in Baghdad, Zeina Karam in Beirut, Paul Schemm in Rabat, Morocco, Brian Murphy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, and Rebecca Santana in Islamabad contributed.

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