Challenging Taboos

At a first glance, it looks like a typical photo of a beautiful and wholesome couple pausing to capture a happy moment. The handsome young man is neatly dressed and has a stern but piercing look. The woman is wearing a hijab and holding on to her fiancé (as explained in the photo caption), smiling and looking extremely happy. The twist, however, is that the person who posted this is the brother of the woman in the photo.
To those brought up in a liberal culture, this is nothing unusual, but to those raised in a conservative society, this is indeed a big deal. What? A guy posting a photo of his sister holding on to another man’s arm in broad daylight? Are you kidding me?
I’m certain that the bold brother suffered the ire of many in his society, but what is interesting is the fact that his post received around five hundred likes! That’s five hundred people who approve of the post. The brother did not stop at posting the photo but wrote that he wholeheartedly congratulates his sister on her engagement to the decent man in the photo, and he went on to allude to archaic social habits of sidelining women as if they were objects that could be the source of shame. What an audacious man, I thought. The timing of the post is also pertinent. It was around the time when a young woman, close in age to that of the woman in the photo, was brutally killed by some males in her family for daring to go out with her close-to-the-family fiancé-to-be, with the full knowledge of her mother. The message of the post is clear: I don’t want anything to do with outdated social habits that degrade women and classify them as inferior to men. If that’s not challenging taboos, I don’t know what is.
Fortunately, Maher, the man who posted the photo of his sister, is not the only one challenging taboos in Palestine, particularly on issues related to women. From what I see, Palestinian women are getting bolder both in social activism, including organizing (mostly) women’s demonstrations, and in lobbying for legislation that promotes women’s rights. Only recently, a presidential decree was issued forbidding both men and women under the age of 18 from getting married. Sadly, the decree includes some exceptions, but it stresses that the exceptions will remain so and will not become the norm. Better than nothing, I suppose!
Clearly, irrespective of the unjust political and dire economic situations, Palestinian society remains dynamic, always striving for the rule of law and egalitarianism, where all human rights are respected. We’re not there yet, but we’re certainly trying.
Long live Palestine.

Sani Meo is co-owner and general manager of Turbo Design (1985), publisher of This Week in Palestine and Filistin Ashabab magazines. He's an incorrigible optimist, a staunch advocate for Palestinian justice, and a firm believer in the private sector. Socially and politically, Meo is liberal and secular. He lives in Jerusalem, married to Maha Khoury and father of Dina and Maya.