A women protests against so-called honor killings in early September outside the Palestinian Authority prime minister’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Honor killings, in which males murder female relatives for having brought perceived dishonor to the family, remain pervasive in some sectors of Arab society. (Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

Gaza Lawyer Preparing to Launch Legal Aid App

Women’s center head urges caution, calls it business rather than social service

Monaliza Almasri, a Gaza lawyer, has developed, with the help of fellow attorneys and a group of programmers, the Faraman online app, which provides legal support services for men and women.

The program, to be launched in February 2020, will feature multiple service options backed by 15 lawyers. Consultations will be free of charge, with advanced services coming at a nominal cost.

According to Almasri, Faraman – the classical Arabic term for edict – is aimed at addressing violence, with gender-based violence being given a particular focus. It is designed to raise awareness among women by offering a diverse content of legal knowledge and linking battered women with legal advisors confidentially, quickly and easily.

“During my volunteer work, I noticed that women subjected to violence felt either embarrassed or afraid of reporting abuse,” she told The Media Line. “Faraman’s user-friendly application requires no signing in and no need for identification… giving them more space to talk freely.”

According to preliminary results from a 2019 survey of domestic violence in Palestinian society conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 38 percent of women in the Gaza Strip experienced a form of violence “at least once.” Shockingly, only 1% of these women went to a psychosocial or legal assistance center, whereas fully 61% chose to remain silent.

Work on the app faced several challenges before achieving satisfactory results.

“At first, I didn’t have any technological background, which made it difficult for me to deliver my idea to the programmers I work with. Similarly, my fellow lawyers couldn’t understand some of the technological requirements while programming,” Almasri said.

The app links to the Faraman website, which offers significant materials for individuals working in the legal profession, including lawyers, practitioners and academics.

“There are local laws and regulations, international agreements, a legal dictionary, master’s and doctoral theses, research and legal studies that make the website a reliable legal reference sources,” she explained.

Aroob Abueisha, a law student and activist, told The Media Line: “Personally, I think the app is realistic and practical, especially given the free consultation services and the nominal fees in advanced stages.”

The fact that there are people “on the other side” of the app is most appreciated.

“If I want to ask about any legal matter, I, as a law student, am relieved to know that a practicing lawyer would answer me,” Abueisha said.

There are concerns, however.

Zainab Alghonaimy, head of the Center for Women’s Research and Consulting, told The Media Line that conducting legal matters online could pose a risk.

“We [women’s institutions] take into account so many factors before giving a single consultation, and we offer different alternatives to ensure stability for the family,” she explained.

“Furthermore,” Alghonaimy continued, “we provide completely free legal services for women subjected to violence by using different kinds of tools. Online support is definitely one of our main tools. You can’t impose fees and say you want to serve these women! I prefer calling [Faraman] a kind of business, but not a social service.”

Similarly, Ayda, a divorced teacher who asked that her last name not be used, told The Media Line that there are women for whom the app, with all its legal services and materials, will be useless.

It “remains powerless,” she explained, “for a simple, uneducated and dependent woman threatened with homelessness – who needs way more than just a consultation.”

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