Lebanese women: time to wake up! (By Joumana Haddad)

12 Jan

Lebanese women: time to wake up!

Nothing compares to the Lebanese feeling of superiority. Except maybe the Lebanese power of denial. Try to tell a Lebanese man that Lebanon’s record of human rights is shameful; he would take your words as a tasteless joke (The imperishable myth of the Switzerland of the Middle East). Try to tell a Lebanese lady that the women who work for her, coming from Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, are much more valued in their respective countries than she is in hers; she would be utterly outraged. And yet, this is the glaring truth: Lebanon’s ranking in the gender gap report for 2012 is 122nd, while Ethiopia is 118th, Sri Lanka is 39th and the Philippines is 8th! The current Parliament of Lebanon has 128 deputies, carefully distributed between Christians and Muslims. However, there are only four women deputies (that’s 3%). As for the current cabinet, not one female has been deemed worthy of being appointed as a minister.

In France, where women were pioneers of the Feminist movement and have gained exceptional rights that few women in the world can claim to have (except in Scandinavia), president François Hollande felt nonetheless the need to restore a women’s rights ministry – after it was closed for almost 30 years – and has sent his ministers to a sexism-education class. Things are changing even in Saudi Arabia! We heard yesterday that the Kingdom is expected to name 15 women among its 150-member Shura Council (that’s 10%), when the body’s new representatives are announced next week. A number of prominent females have been nominated to take up positions on the council, like deputy chairman of the National Society for Human Rights, Al-Jowhara Al-Anqari; and current deputy minister of education, Noora Al-Fayez.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, where some women are so proud because they are allowed to drive cars; feel utterly emancipated because they can wear miniskirts; and snub their Saudi counterparts because they can walk around without a male guardian; women continue to be discriminated against in law and practice, and to face gender-based violence. Lebanese women remain unable to pass their nationality on to their husbands and children, and the parliament failed to pass a draft law criminalizing domestic violence, including marital rape.

There is a definite alienation between Lebanese women and politics. When I started writing this post, I did some research in our political background, in order to see when this alienation started. And I found out that it has always been there. Put aside a few bright exceptions like Laure Moghayzel or Mary Debs and a handful of others, Lebanese women were never interested in getting involved in the political life of their country. Even long after they had gained the right to vote and to participate in National elections (1952), only 17 women have served in Lebanon’s parliament. Our political structure has always been dominated by men; and the patriarchal political culture is evident in our parliament, ministries, and municipalities. What did not help was the hereditary system of political positions, which is prevalent till this very day. But the women’s unwillingness to participate is also to blame. Will that change in the upcoming elections? Hoping it would is not enough. We need to work for it. Women’s organizations are called upon today to amplify women’s voices in the political process, and rally support around those running for office, either as independents or representing parties.

A famous Lebanese saying goes like this: “Lucky he who has a place to accommodate a goat in Lebanon.”

Could it be because we are increasingly becoming mindless herds?

Original source: https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/jspot/lebanese_women_time_to_wake_up

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