TEL AVIV — It’s not unusual to see a Gazan woman riding on the back of a motorbike driven by her male partner or family member. But this sight is expected to disappear due to a decision by Hamas police in the Gaza Strip to forbid women from riding motorbikes with their partners or family members.
Women are also now forbidden from driving motorbikes themselves. A statement from the Gaza police said that any person who violates this regulation will be fined “even if the Traffic Law of 2000 does not include the prohibition on women riding motorbikes.” The decision was made after the death of a Gazan woman who was riding a motorbike behind her son.
Colonel Mahar Alli, deputy police commander, said that the decision was meant to ensure women’s safety. Until now, women who rode behind men did so with their legs closed to one side of the bike as women used to ride side-saddle on horses.
According to Colonel Alli, “A safe position for a woman on a motorbike is parallel to that of the man: a balanced position with one leg on one side of the seat and the other leg on the other. The woman also needs to wear a helmet and hold onto the man and all that contradicts our tradition. Women can’t put on a helmet and wear pants appropriate for riding a motorbike or wear a shirt (as opposed to the galabia that women in the Strip wear), and that’s a look that no one can accept.”
Even though Hamas enforces a strict dress code against women and restricts their professional and personal lives, Colonel Alli asked that “no one misunderstand the decision. We are in favor of equality between the sexes and there’s no issue here of sexual discrimination. Here in the Strip, we need our mothers and wives and protecting their lives is a religious obligation before it’s a legal obligation.”
Regarding the fine, Alli said that considering “the special circumstances of the Strip under siege, we take into consideration the situation of the population.” Therefore, he said, the fine imposed on anyone who violates the decision will be 200 shekels (about $57).