Officials replaced some women's names on ballots for municipal elections in Gaza and the West Bank with either the women’s initials or a descriptive phrase such as "wife of" or "sister of". The action sparked a social media outcry and gave new focus to women’s civil rights in Palestinian society.
“If we accept our names to be invisible, then our voices will be silenced,” commented Amal Abusrour, Program Director of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, a partner of Donor Direct Action. WCLAC works to reverse discrimination against women in Palestine and to promote their social and legal rights.
In protests on social media, twitter users created the hash tag in Arabic Our names should not be covered and women commented that their names were their identity, not mere terms. In previous Palestinian elections, the pictures of some female candidates were replaced with pictures of flowers and doves.
The protests have become a catalyst for demands for more to be done to promote Palestinian women’s participation in public life. Palestine’s political parties have signed a code of conduct to ensure that women make up a minimum of 30 per cent of candidates, but critics say they are not living up to this commitment.
The Central Election Commission has said that the ballots in question are illegal, since women are entitled to full political participation under Palestinian law. The elections, scheduled for 8 October and then postponed, were for the councils of more than 400 towns and cities in the occupied Palestinian territories. No new date has yet been set for the elections to be held.