Beginning this September, girls and boys above the age of nine in the Gaza Strip will be segregated in school under a new law passed by Hamas, which governs the coastal Palestinian enclave.

The law passed earlier this month will also exclude male staffers from working in girls' schools in Gaza. The legislation has been criticised by human rights groups and women's organisations as an attempt to impose Hamas' political agenda on Gazan society.

The new measures are the latest in a series of controversial steps taken recently by the Islamist movement, which has ruled here since 2007.

Walid Mezher, a legal adviser to Gaza's Ministry of Education, told Al Jazeera the Palestinian education system was "organised before by the Egyptian 1933 education law, which is very outdated. It's time for Palestinians to have their own modern law that matches their needs".

Regarding the most controversial aspect of the law, which seeks to ban gender mixing in schools, Mezher said this was the case already. The difference now is that it would be law and not merely social tradition.

"Even for the schools which are run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] and not our government, the two genders are separated based on the Palestinian traditions," he said
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