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Women’s Rights In Lebanon

April 2, 2011

I haven’t written much on my blog, mostly because I have been so busy with so many other things these past couple of weeks. So anyways, I was watching TeleLiban – the Lebanese “state tv”. The television channel was doing a long segment about women rights groups in Lebanon, and specifically focused on a convention that was going on in Beirut, in memory of the late Fadlallah [who I have the utmost respect for when it comes to this topic]. Just to give you a simple background on him, Fadlallah is often seen as the “Hezballah religious leader” – but I beg to differ.

Protesting for a change to the Nationality Law

He was an advocate for women’s rights in Lebanon, and believe it or not, one of the most remarkable mediators between Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon. I think when he passed, many Sunni’s mourned him. But anyways, because he was such a leader in the field of women’s rights – the event was held in his honor.

Women’s rights groups in Lebanon focus on three main things – upon many others. The main three are the “Nationality Law”, domestic violence, and equality when it comes to divorce and children. Those are pretty important, and I strongly support the groups seeking equality for women in Lebanon. It is often thought that Lebanese women have the most equality in a society – in comparison to the rest of the Middle East. Maybe so. I mean we are comparing Lebanese women to Saudi Arabian women, Iraqi women and Algerian women – so in the eyes of women in these conservative nations – I guess it’s true, maybe they have much more equality than others. In my eyes, Lebanese women just have more freedom. Theres a big difference between freedom and constitutional equality. No?

Photo from NOWLebanon

Islamically speaking, domestic violence against women is prohibited. And if your gonna tell me thats not true, then I want you to check this out. The same can be said about Christianity and Judaism equally as well. So since religiously it’s not “allowed”, then why do Lebanese women still face domestic abuse? Good question, one that is hard to answer – yet Lebanese Women Groups are trying to tackle and solve this question. Kudos to them.

We also have “divorce and children”. President Emile Lahoud made it clear where the Lebanese constitution stands on this a coupe of years ago when the Australian Lebanese man brought his daughter to Lebanon after his divorce from his wife. This man, a Christian, was given FULL custody rights to the children, without even a court hearing. You can imagine how many families in Lebanon go through this after a divorce. For heavens sakes its a norm now in Lebanon. “The children go with their father” – in ALL sects. Sometimes theres the odd case where the dad is a complete sleeze-ball, and the children are given to their mother. It’s very rare. But then again, this is based on my experiences in Zahle province. Bas la2, Lebanon is very unanimous when it comes to this topic I think.

Freedoms - like freedoms in clothing - differ from equality!

The Nationality Law is one where I have my own personal opinion on. I PERSONALLY do not think anyone who doesn’t have Lebanese roots, or given a Lebanese Citizenship by the government [for example, the Armenians] shouldn’t be given Lebanese citizenship. I know ladies, I know, please don’t be angry with me but to be fair – I also think this should be applied to the non-Lebanese wives of Lebanese men. I do however believe that if one of the parents is Lebanese – and the children are born IN Lebanon – the children should be given Lebanese citizenship. That is only fair – I mean if the children are going to live in Lebanon and are born there, then why not? Plus as a Lebanese man – if I marry a woman from any Arab nation -besides Syria, I think – I CANNOT get her citizenship and neither can my children. So why should Lebanon be the exception? People may be thinking that I am a typical Lebanese who says this because I don’t want the Palestinians to gain a Lebanese Citizenship. And I think they shouldn’t get a Lebanese citizenship, for one reason – if they are given Lebanese Citizenship, they are ultimately denouncing their right to return to Palestine, and that is something Israel wanted Lebanon to do, in order to change the ideology of the Palestinians on their right to move back to the Holy Land. I am against that. Palestinians have a homeland, and by keeping their Palestinian Citizenship – and only that – they are maintaining the idea that Palestine is theirs and they are going to return. [For a more in depth explanation about Palestinians in Lebanon in my eyes- please check it out here ].

Picture speaks for itself - no?

So the point is – Lebanese women need to have full equality inside of Lebanon. We should stop preaching that Lebanese women are better off than the rest of the Middle East and thats it. NO. We have to look further and compare where Lebanese women stand in comparison to women in Canada, France, and the United Kingdom. We have to accept the fact that maybe one day, we will have a women president, who would probably lead Lebanon to ultimate success. We should embrace the ideology that domestic violence in Lebanon will make our society in general a complete cycle of abuse, and inequality. We should also learn how to differentiate between a woman with “freedoms” and a woman with “complete equality in a society”. These are crucial.

I think these Women Groups in Lebanon are doing great things- we just want people to listen! I mean, do we really want to keep thinking of our women as homemakers, beautiful TV presenters, teachers and nurses? Or do we want Lebanese women to take on important roles – high positions roles to be exact? Our women vote, they are HIGHLY educated, extremely objective, and open-minded – and like I said earlier, they have a lot of freedoms in comparison to other nations of the region. I love that about Lebanese society, and I love that about our women. They have the potential to be something great, and posses the ability to move this country to a prosperous and strong future. Lets give them more of a chance. Support your local women groups in Lebanon. Donate, be a  part of their events, and give your say on the subject! Discrimination against women can be erased if proper measures are taken on all levels.

It’s time to move forward – the region is beckoning for it.

*For those of you wondering, Lebanon has continuously passed in UN summaries of equality for women. Which is EXCELLENT! I mean, it shows we are leaders in the region, but still – there is time for improvement!*

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