Posts tagged Feminism
It’s been many years we’ve been talking about the draft law to protect women from family violence. It’s a very simple law really. It enables women to call the police for help if they are abused at home. And it enables them to seek shelter and protection with their kids. It basically says that women can leave their homes with the support of the state.
It also overrides the current law, Article 503 that makes it legal for husbands to rape their wives.
At least one woman is killed every month by a family member. That’s last year’s count. This year alone, there’s been 4 murders. Out of the 2250 women who reported family violence to the police in 2009, almost half said they feel a direct threat to their lives.
The fact is, this law can save lives. An intervention can save a life. A phone call can save a life. Violence unstopped escalates into murder. At the heart of any feminist struggle is violence against women and this law is a crucial step towards ending violence against women. We’re not expecting it to do miracles, of course. But our battle isn’t just about this law. It’s with the patriarchy of our Parliament and Government who have proved again and again that they do not give a damn about women in Lebanon.
We’ve tried protests and sit-ins and vigils and social media campaigns and meetings with MPs and billboards and awareness-raising and flyers and workshops and panels. We even tried interactive theater and flash mobs and dances. And still they tell us to wait.
On February 24, Kafa organized a demo that marched to Nabih Berri’s house demanding that he put the law on the agenda of the parliamentary discussions. He replied on February 25 with: “It is not possible in these circumstances to hold a session while the country is drowning in the elections law.”
And so, we have decided – some friends and I – that we are no longer putting up with this bullshit. Tonight we announce to the MPs that if the law to protect women from family violence is not put on the agenda for the next parliamentary session and if it is not voted on fully without mutilations, we are going on an open hunger strike in front of parliament. If they don’t mind women dying, we’ll give them starving women at their doorstep.
This is our final battle and we are going to win it. Brace yourselves.
For years now, the Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform has been lobbying for proportional elections, a 30% women’s quota, lowering the voting age to 18, allowing diaspora voting in Lebanese embassies, and a list of other reforms. With time ticking for the 2013 elections scheduled for next May (although many speculate it will be postponed depending on the uprising in Syria), the Lebanese government met today and passed a proposed law to Parliament, which includes proportional representation based on a Lebanon of 13 districts. Since nothing in Lebanon is decided outside of the March 8 / 14 deadlock, it is clear that the current March 8 government would push for proportional representation not because it is more fair but because it would benefit the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, and other members of the coalition who had greater numbers of votes in the 2009 elections. Zako has a full study of 2009 election results on a proportional scheme here. Odds are that the March 14 bloc will turn down the proposal in Parliament and the country will go to another majority representation in the 2013 elections.
Women’s Political Participation
But now we look at the issue of women’s quota, which was discussed as part of the proposal in government today. I haven’t cared for gender quotas much in Lebanon since we all know the same MP seats are going to be filled with the same corrupt sectarian politicians – men or women. We used to focus our discussions at Nasawiya on the question of: do we want women in Parliament just for representation, so girls can have role models? Or do we not care about women as long as they replicate the same sectarian models? Given that this is a false dilemma, many of us opted for wanting strong, feminist, secularist women in Parliament who can hopefully be elected in a non-confessional system. Of course, this was all theory for me until I actually started meeting women MPs and working on the Take Back Parliament campaign. It was then that I realized that there is really no women’s engagement in politics in Lebanon. None. The issue is not about female MPs or ministers alone – the issue is that there weren’t any women I could name that were political analysts, heads of news desks, editors of political pages in newspapers, bloggers, journalists, anything. Since the days of the civil war in the 70s, women were completely alienated from Lebanese politics – much to their credit, some would say, for who would want to be associated with such a bloody war – and have not been able to get back into the arena since the 90s. And if women are not at the table, you can be sure that their issues are not at the agenda.
This is a structural issue – one that will take years to fix – and the solutions must come at many levels. Electoral quotas are one of these solutions, temporary of course, that could get more women into the political sphere. There is no guarantee that women’s issues will then make it into political agendas (we cite Gilberte Zouein’s shameful stance on family violence as an example). But, frankly, no women on the table at all is an absolute guarantee that women’s issues won’t be on the agenda. So whether or not you agree to a quota, take a look at the disgusting way in which the issue was discussed in government to give you an understanding of just how isolated women are from politics and how shamefully their demand for political representation is treated.
The Discussion on Women’s Quota
In 2011, Cabinet chose zero women ministers and here was Michel Aoun’s chauvinistic reply to why. Basically he said women lack the experience for public service. All women, apparently. His same government now treated women’s quota in the following way.
Firstly, the discussion of percentage happened in the most random of ways, with one minister suggesting 5-7%, another minister upping him to 15-17%, and the majority agreeing that they must take the average of 10%. As if they were discussing what to order for lunch. It shows you just how little concern they pay to the issue of no women in politics as a fundamentally unimportant crisis. Nobody seems to notice that half of the country is not concerned with the way the country is run. Perhaps they know this is to their advantage as sectarian war lords.
And then, during the discussion, MP Nicolas Fattoush (Zahle, March 14) dares to utter the most hypocritical argument against women’s quota by referring to Article 7 of the Lebanese Constitution that states that all Lebanese are equal before the law. Mon Dieu. The nerve of this guy. All Lebanese are equal before the law? Where the hell was that argument when women demanded equal citizenship rights or equal marital laws or equal labor laws or equal anything?
WTF. There is no equality before the law, Mr. Fattoush, we live as gendered citizens – the structures of patriarchy and misogyny (perpetuated by our very government) prevent women from access to protection and to equal treatment everywhere from the home to public spaces to police stations to courts of law. This is a perfect example of empty concepts of equality at the disposal and service of those in power.
When asked about women’s quota, Michel Aoun, the same guy who said women lack experience in the political sphere insulted the question with: “Lebanese culture is misogynistic and doesn’t want to see women in positions of power. You, as women, must create strong women’s movements to impose your opinion. You must refuse all gifts! I personally refuse to give you this gift, you must go out and fight for it!”
WTF again. Ya3ni, I don’t know what to say to that, Mr. Aoun. You think supporting women’s political participation is a gift that women should fight for? And you, a man on top of that pyramid of power won’t do anything to support it, like say, I dunno, instate a women’s quota? The women’s movement has been banging its head against the FPM-majority committee for the protection of women from family violence — these are the same MPs who have claimed that gender-based violence is being handled fine by religious courts and that the state shouldn’t interfere when in fact, at least one woman is dying every month as a direct result of family violence. How hypocritical these statements are and how insulting to all women in Lebanon and all women’s movements.
No Country for Women
The misogyny of these politicians has to be brought to a stop. Every phrase they utter about women is insulting. I hear stories about this every day – even from women MPs and journalists. The other day at the Family Violence press conference, Samir el Jisr had the nerve to tell a woman journalist that she didn’t understand what rape was. He then went on to give her the legal definition of rape. This is the epitome of insult. A man telling a woman what rape is. This corrupt political landscape needs to change on so many levels and one of these is to get large percentages of women from the women’s movement into Parliament, Government, and municipalities. The final format of the proposed law seems to have included a gender quota of “at least one person from every gender in the nomination lists.” That means there must be one woman nominee in every list (the proportional system mandates closed election lists). What a wonderful gift, Lebanon. I’m sure women feel more motivated to work hard for their basic human rights now.
Tuesday, April 17 – Wednesday, April 18
Experts & activists from across the Middle East/North Africa convene in Istanbul to discuss region’s democratic transitions
Check out this terrific line-up of speakers! You can also watch the Live Webcast here.
3:00 – 3:30 Welcome and Introductions
3:30 – 6:00 Opening Plenary Session
Introductory remarks/chair: Thoraya Obaid
An Overview of the Geopolitical Landscape and Women’s Rights in the MENA Region
Deniz Kandiyoti, Jean Said Makdisi
Challenges and Opportunities for the Women’s Movement: Feminism, Fundamentalism & Patriarchy
Women’s Rights and Transitions in a Global Context
Jacqueline Pitanguy – Brazil
9:15 – 11:00 Lessons Learned from Recent Engagement with Political Transformations in the MENA Region
Introductory Remarks/Chair: Zeina Zaatari
Amina Lemrini, Wajeeha Al Baharna, Amal Grami, Asma Khader, Sawsan Zakzak
11:00 – 11:15 Break
11:15 – 1:00 Lessons Learned in Other Regions: International Mechanisms, Transitional Justice, Legal Reform, Citizen Transformation
Introductory Remarks/Chair: Lydia Alpizar-Durán
Sapna Pradhan Mallah, Sanja Sarnavka, Claudia Samayoa, Daptne Cuevas, Shamim Meer
1:00 – 2:30 Break for lunch
2:30 – 4:15 Challenges Women and Feminist Movements Face: Fundamentalism & Patriarchy
Introductory Remarks/Chair: Mahnaz Afkhami
Haideh Moghissi, Maria Consuelo Mejia, Yakin Ertürk, Ho Yock Lin
4:15 – 4:30 Break
4:30 – 6:00 Where Do We Go from Here? Rethinking the Relationship between the State and Women as Individual Citizens
Introductory Remarks/Chair: Musimbi Kanyoro
Rahmah Bourkyah, Amal Abdel Hadi, Gina Vargas
6:00 – 6:30 Closing Remarks
This is a translation of Farfahinne’s post: مشروع قانون حماية المرأة من العنف الأسري بعد التسريبات: تشويه ما بعده تشويه
Violence against women happens in two complimentary spheres. In the first, a number of cultural, political, and economic values and laws create an environment of violence in the public sphere. And in the second, violence is perpetuated privately within the family. They compliment and complete each other. For instance, laws and policies that discriminate against women economically stem from an attitude that places women in a traditional role within the family as house workers and not bread winners. And thus a woman is deprived of her right to insure her children with social security unless her husband is handicapped or deceased.
Families in Lebanon are engulfed in a shroud of holiness. What happens within their structures – even when violent – remains within a family. Like my neighbor who thought it a curse that his wife only bore 3 girls and would beat them for the stupidest reasons and drag them by the hair down the stairs. Their cries for help would fill the neighborhood for years until they grew up and found an escape, each in her own way. The neighborhood adapted to these cries, got used to them and eventually got bored with them. To many, they became a repetitive symphony that provided immunity from any attacks of conscience for ignoring the painful cries.
In Lebanon, women’s organizations have struggled for years to release violence against women from the captives of the private sphere, to find mechanisms to protect women. The law to Protect Women from Family Violence, presented to the government by Kafa, was the culmination of years of this hard work. It was formulated after years of listening to thousands of complaints from women who were beaten and raped by their spouses and fathers. It was put together based on research from hundreds of counseling and legal support cases. The proposed law is particularly for women because it saw that Lebanon’s penal and personal status laws awarded men with many privileges and that there should be a law that protects women in order to tend to the grave imbalance between women and men in family structures. It aimed to fight gender-based violence, to fight the violence that happens against women for the sole reason of them being women.
And so the law was supported by dozens of women’s and civil society organizations and presented to the government. It was then passed on – with little resistance – to Parliament, which then designated a side committee to study the law and then pass it on to a vote in Parliament. The law has been with the committee for 6 months although their deadline was 3 weeks.
Today, we have word that the committee has two weeks to finish its study and that it has already made terrible amendments that will actually take us hundreds of steps backwards.
The entire ethos of the law has been changed from one to protect women to one to protect all the members of the family from violence. It has, therefore, become entirely void of the gender dimension – despite all the studies and research and testimonies that prove that the problem of violence within families is a gender-based problem.
Some forms of violence have been deleted entirely in Article 3 – most importantly marital rape – which, in this maimed version, is not considered a form of family violence.
The procedure of reporting violence has been changed to prevent anybody from initiating a complaint via reporting it (which means that I cannot call up the police and report my three friends being beaten up by their father).
And perhaps the most dangerous of these alterations is the addition of Article 26 which gives priority and superiority of judgment to the personal status (i.e. religious sectarian) courts in case of any clash between the two laws. With this article, religious courts have the prerogative to judge if the act is considered violent and, therefore, if it should be criminalized or not. This article also discriminates among women in the implementation of the protection law because it will change according to religious denomination. And it’s considered a blow to the Child Protection law which has come under attack recently with demands to return matters of violence against children to sectarian courts as well.
And so, a law like this, in its distorted version, no longer achieves its intended result which was the protection of women from family violence and the open admission from the State that violence against women is a crime punishable by law, which would help fight the dominant cultural social values that justify violence against women.
The struggle is clear today between forces that are working with all their might against civil society to impose religious courts as the fundamental reference for family matters and forces trying to place the Lebanese State in front of its civil duties to protect women form violence.
Women’s organizations and namely Kafa have proven to be patient and persistent. Today, the law faces the grave danger of being born dead or maimed (at best). Women’s organizations and civil society – everybody who is fighting for a civil space, a civil state, civil laws – must fight to the bone for this law that will save many from misery and save many from murder.
You can read the full post in Arabic about the Lebanese Parliament vote to cancel Article 562 of the Penal Code that offers reduced sentences for “honor” crimes.
The Committee for Administration and Justice, headed by MP Robert Ghanem, had raised the recommendation to cancel Article 562 back on May 16, 2011. The matter was put to a vote as the last point on the agenda of the legislative parliamentary meeting yesterday. Some MPs argued against the annulment: Butros Harb, Samir El Jisr, Imad El Hout, and Ali Fayyad. Others argued for removing Article 562: Sami Gemayel, Elie Keyrouz, Antoine Zahra, Marwan Hamadeh, Ghassan Moukhaiber, and Elie Aoun, and their arguments were good.
The vote finally passed FOR and the article should now officially be removed from the Penal Code. I could not find information on the voting numbers – I will post those when I do. Nayla Tueni and Gilberte Zouein (who represent half of the women in parliament since we only have four) were not even present.
It is important to note that Saada Allaw from AsSafir had written an article objecting to the annulment of Article 562 without looking at Article 252 as well. Article 252 allows for reduced sentences on crimes committed in a state of rage. She argues that many judges in Lebanon would frame “honor” crimes as ones committed in a state of rage and criminals could still benefit from reduced sentences. Although she is right, I don’t think we could have a Penal Code that does not distinguish between pre-meditated murder and second degree murder. So I am not sure what the solution would be – perhaps to forbid its use when it comes to gender-based violence. Thoughts?
The important thing now is that this small and long overdue victory does not take our eyes off the crucial battle of sending the bill to Protect Women from Family Violence into Parliament for a vote. It is right now still in the Special Committee and might be vetoed through the pressure of religious groups. “Honor” crimes are a direct result of the vicious cycle of gender-based violence going unpunished and remaining a taboo in Lebanon. So if we’ve agreed to cancel those, we might as well install protective laws against violence all together.
In all cases, congratulations to the women’s movement on this victory
Al Jazeera Stream hosted a debate on the proposed Law to Protect Women from Family Violence last night. I was arguing for and Sounay Nouh of the Women’s Committee to Protect the Family was arguing against. Discussion focused on marital rape, culture, child protection, and the current legal protection mechanisms.
Thank you to everyone who joined us yesterday at the demonstration to Protect Women from Family Violence!
You can also check out the #protectwomen hashtag on twitter for the live updates.
I estimate that we must have been around 800 protesting yesterday – very diverse crowd. The presence of lots of political parties provoked mixed reactions from the feminists, some applauding their participation in the demo (which is a rarity in Lebanon) and others thought their presence was hypocritical and tainted what should have been a people’s march. I personally don’t like marching alongside any party for whatever cause because I dislike all of them, but I respect Kafa’s decision to involve them as partners in the campaign. If there’s any organization in Lebanon that can bring very different groups together at the same table, it’s Kafa, and that requires hard work and guts, so kudos to them.
It was a little disappointing to see that the largest coalition of our women’s movement could only bring together hundreds of people. We are a long way from becoming a mass movement. And certainly the worst thing about the march was the chant “Rfa3 eedak, koun rijjeil” (targetted at parliamentarians). Shou ossitna we still endorse the idea of “being a man?”
All in all, it was a successful demo and we’ll keep our eyes on the developments of the proposed law.
The women’s committee of Dar Al Fatwa in the North of Lebanon have created this flyer bashing CEDAW and claiming that it is an attack on family values and on the psychological and physical particularities of women’s femininity.
If anything, they should be sued for horrible graphic design. Why do they have a suburban American-looking house that is being struck by lightning? Do we have such houses in Tripoli? Who’s being Western now, huh?
Also from Tripoli, posters calling for a demonstration today AGAINST the proposed bill to protect women from family violence.
I think this pubic battle between fundamentalist groups and the women’s movement in Lebanon is terrific. It could finally galvanize supporters to speak up and make themselves heard. And it brings out the opposition that we always knew existed but that didn’t take our efforts seriously before. See you at the demo on Sunday!
People, the lobby AGAINST the protection of women from family violence is starting to speak out with strong statements issued this week by many groups and political parties. Check out this story in As-Safir:
and this one on New TV:
Religious groups are also lobbying AGAINST the lifting of reservations off the CEDAW, which is an international convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
And so it is very important – now more than ever – to show that:
- We will NOT compromise on women’s human rights no matter what
- We believe in the protection of women from family violence as a basic right for women’s dignity and self-respect.
- We know from evidence that the lack of protection leads to the killing of women in many cases, in addition to their daily suffering from physical, emotional, economic and sexual violence.
- We reject the claim that “reconciliation” is the answer to family violence. When a wife or daughter is beaten, the perpetrator has crossed the line and “reconciliation” should NOT be the woman’s only option.
- We refuse to be pawns in the fighting and bickering of political parties and refuse to be used to further their propaganda and fundamentalist agendas.
- We stand as advocates for women’s human rights – men and women together – from all regions of Lebanon, all ages, all beliefs to say YES to a law that protects women from family violence.
Join us THIS SUNDAY to show your support in a demonstration at 11am from the Ministry of Interior to Riad el Solh in Beirut. Bring your friends and mothers and sisters to show that we will NOT BE SILENCED and we will NOT BE INTIMIDATED by anyone meen ma ken ykoun.