Lebanese women in a Chauvinist society

Women Day past, Mother’s Day past, several events for the support of women rights in Lebanon past but one thing remained: Lebanese women are living in a chauvinist society that is not going to change anytime soon.

Don’t get me wrong, Lebanese love women. They adore their mothers and are willing to sing to them every day with Fairouz “My angel mother” and if they travel abroad, you will hear them listening to Marcel Khalife singing “To My Mother“. They are even ready to kill or get killed if they hear someone telling them “Kis ‘Imak” or “Kis ‘Ikhtak” (insults directed to the mother and the sister), but when it comes to women rights, how we treat them in General, the Lebanese society has proven to be one of the most chauvinist society on earth.

Even though the Lebanon constitution states that “All Lebanese are equal before the law. They equally enjoy civil and political rights and equally are bound by public obligations and duties without any distinction.” Lebanese lawmakers (majority male) strip these rights and the equality from women.

The laws governing Lebanese civil institutions are fairly tolerant and emerged from late Ottoman, French and post-independence jurisprudence. The late Ottoman period saw the introduction of a number of liberal laws, mostly imported from Europe, as part of the Tanzimat reforms of the second half of the 19th century. During the French mandate period, a host of laws were imported from France, most of which were relatively liberal.  These laws were never changed since.

It is 2012 and we still do not have laws in Lebanon to protect Lebanese women of verbal violence, physical abuse, and marital rapes. A draft of the law released last year made rape within marriage illegal for the first time in Lebanon. However the law was significantly amended by a parliamentary committee and no longer refers to marital rape of women, instead leaving the definition to individual religious councils. The number of rapes within marriage in Lebanon is difficult to estimate as they are often unreported. However the Lebanese women’s rights organization KAFA says their Beirut center alone sees some 300 cases of marital rape a year. KAFA, an NGO that campaigns for the protection of women from domestic violence, produced a video ‘naming and shaming’ the obstructing MPs in the parliamentary committee.

Freedom House Organization, in one of its reports about Lebanon wrote: “117 countries criminalize sexual harassment in the workplace, but Lebanon is not one of them. 79 countries criminalize marital rape, but Lebanon is not one of them. 125 countries have outlawed domestic violence, but Lebanon is not one of them.”

We hear the community asking the women to participate in political life, to engage in parliamentary elections, …. in a chauvinist society that doesn’t have a single law to protect women, even inside their own families. Yet we ask them to be lawmakers and issue laws to protect the community !!!

Take a look at our sick laws:

If a woman gets raped by her spouse, it is not considered as rape; as detailed in articles 503 and 504 of the Lebanese Criminal Code.

If a man rapes a woman in Lebanon, his prosecution and sentence will be nullified and stopped if he marries his victim. Detailed in articles 522 of the Lebanese Criminal Code.

If a woman cheats on her husband, she risks three months up to two years in prison; as detailed in articles 478, 488 and 489 of the Lebanese Criminal Code.

While extra-marital sex on the husband’s side is only considered adultery if it happens in the conjugal home or if the affair is long-term. Even so he risks one year in prison, half of that of his female counterpart; as detailed in articles 478, 488 and 489 of the Lebanese Criminal Code.

In TV shows, Advertisement, …… everywhere you look (for sure if you want to look behind the nice dress, shoes, silicon valley, …) you will find examples on how women are loked at in our chauvinist society. Take a look at this sites that monitors different kinds of gender discrimination in Lebanon: KherrBerr

Lebanese women are fighting three main battles these days: The “Nationality Law”, domestic violence, and equality when it comes to divorce and children. I will come back to the “Nationality Law” in another post because it is inter-wined with politics. Do you know what the law in Lebanese says when it comes to divorce and children? “The children go with their father”. Yes there are some odd cases but the general rule applies on most cases.  In a Chauvinist society, it is very easy to take the kids from the warmth of the mother and give them to the father and let his mother raise them ….

Many will say, look around you, Lebanese women are treated thousands of times better than women in other parts of the Arab world. You know what, this is a sick excuse for not improving and to keep looking at women as washing machines and sexual tools. I do not give a damn how a Saudi treats his wife. I care about giving my mother and sister a “complete equal right”. I care about not letting any man abuse your sister and take away her children.

Do you care about your mother and sisters the same way I do? Then you should start in your own home. Your house is the first line of battle and this is where the war against chauvinist and inequality is won.