Shamasneh fights for Arab women in the most intimate arena of their lives: marriage and divorce. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)
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In a divorce court where a man's testimony is worth twice a woman's, victory for lawyer Reema Shamasneh is rare and often bittersweet.Shamasneh believes the laws are the way they are because they were passed by men.Shamasneh chose law, a profession that turned out to be a good fit for her pragmatic, analytical nature, despite her initial bashfulness.Her 74-year-old mother Amneh, sitting across from Shamasneh, says she is proud of her daughter's success. But her mother was against her studies, Shamasneh interjects.Female lawyers and clients wear headscarves when appearing before the judges.On a recent morning, Shamasneh signs in with the court clerk to ensure her cases are heard early, then meets a client, 25-year-old Sabreen.Shamasneh had also expected Sabreen's brother to attend the hearing; the court requires two male witnesses or a man and two women.Shamasneh sternly cautions her client that this may hurt her case, because while some judges feel empathy with women and accept one witness, others do not.Shamasneh tells her client that the case will take at least four more months, including required periods for attempts at reconciliation, counseling and arbitration.The growing presence of female lawyers like Shamasneh has helped create more empathy for women going through divorce, custody or alimony hearings.When Shamasneh began practicing 15 years ago, female lawyers were rare.
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