Posts tagged gender
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.
After the announcement of the new all-male Lebanese cabinet on Monday, journalists asked MP Michel Aoun – the main winner in PM Mikati’s new government formation – about the lack of female participation. He replied with:
We did not have any women candidates to nominate , but we welcome their opinions, my house is full of women, and I am very popular among the female population.
You all know that women in Lebanon need more practice and experience in the public life so that she may become qualified for parliamentary and ministerial work.
Clearly, we have a serious gender inequality & stereotyping problem. It is becoming more prominent and more exemplified in our dysfunctional political sphere that there is no room in Lebanese politics for women. People have said to me: what do you care that there are no women when all politicians are corrupt? La2, I care. Of course I don’t want sexist, corrupt women in power any more than I want sexist, corrupt men in power either. I want good, strong women and men who care about social issues and the people’s concerns. But the current regression (illustrated below) demonstrates clearly that we not only have a problem of getting people outside of sectarian politics into the governing sphere. We also have a problem of getting women into government and parliament full stop.
Aoun’s comments – like all of his counterparts – show that the ruling elite have no awareness whatsoever of the importance of women’s political participation. To say that there are no qualified women (out of a population of 2 million) is extremely offensive. And no, we have not forgotten the FPM’s famous appeal to women in the 2009 elections: Sois Belle et Vote.
The chart below illustrates the regression in Lebanese parliament and government from 2005 to the present.
A student emailed me yesterday asking me about gender discrimination in technology (hello Rasha). Here is some of what I replied with:
Yes, of course, gender plays a large role in how everyone views technology. Gender stereotyping starts as early as childbirth and little girls are not expected to excel in math or science or any field of studies that involves logical thinking. So the discrimination starts from there. This is because female genders are (falsely of course) constructed as emotional, unstable, leisurely, not inclined to do hard work because they will eventually get married and sit at home.. as if housework is not hard work. And so this upbringing ripples into adulthood when girls choose university majors, you find a small minority in engineering or programming because they are not careers that are expected of women. And when these careers are dominated by men, you get an inverse gender stereotyping as well, i.e. people think: because there are few women in tech, it must be too challenging for women. We also always face the logical fallacy of generalization when it comes to women. If one woman is bad at something, it is taken that her entire gender is bad at it.
At the same time, women who are extremely successful in tech and have overcome any sort of discrimination are quick to claim that all women can overcome the stereotyping and discrimination if they work hard enough. They often reject the label that they are “female gamers” for example and just want to be “gamers.” 7a22on, of course. Having successful IT women strongly shows that women’s brains indeed are not less capable than men’s (although my attempts to convince my father of this has been futile). But the stats and figures show that they are still a small minority, and we cannot ignore the reasons why so.
So I think these are the main barriers, women eventually grow up to fit their gender stereotype like a self-fulfilling prophecy and they believe that math or economics or technology is too complicated for them. Also, when you are a lone woman in a male-dominated field or company, it’s not easy at all. The boys sometimes develop their own clubs and women are often excluded. I have heard from many people who work in IT in Lebanon that they would rather hire men because they don’t see women as good enough or because they don’t want to deal with women’s maternity leaves or childcare support.
Also, when we talk about tech, it’s not just “easy” things at the micro-level. The decision-makers of the tech industry are mostly men, as are the big CEOs, entrepreneurs, and people calling the shots in things like nanotechnology and biotechnology. Look at robot engineering, for example, when they build robots that are gender-neutral, those are usually male robots. When they build female robots, it’s curvy, sensual, luscious robots that are designed to do housework. The effects of gender stereotyping are subtle and systematic and unconsciously dominant in the whole field.
In ICT usage in specific, I have read stats that say that there are more women on facebook and twitter than men and that their numbers in blogospheres are strong. But the same issues of discrimination also creep into these spaces: whose word has more authority / credibility? Women are also more prone to cyber bullying or stalking and to experience violence online as well. That’s why we work on reclaiming these ICTs to counter violence against women, to amplify women’s voices and experiences.
If you search for the word “feminist” on YouTube, the first mass of results you will get are woman-bashing “shut up and make me a sandwich” videos. Sexism also seeps into the comments on most feminist-oriented work online. And, generally, people are more aggressive online than they are in person because of the nature of the communication (anonymity, lack of accountability, lack of cyber laws, etc..).
And so our work to empower women using ICTs must focus on building their advanced skills and capacity to create the programs, websites, and blogs that support what they have to say. We are in desperate need of generating zegabytes of online content to counter the sexist and violent content that is already there. The cool thing about the Internet is that it is – sort of – a level playing field for everyone. If you have something good to say, people will listen. If you can use ICT tools intelligently, you have a good chance of getting your voice heard, as opposed to mainstream media where you need money and power to set up the technology. When you ask women to speak up, they will. We also have a need to inspire women to understand their gender oppression. For example, at the recent ArabNet conference, panelists were discussing e-commerce in the Middle East and all they could refer to when it came to women online shoppers was clothes and shoes and accessories. And there is the ad on some Arabic cable channel that pisses me off big time where a husband buys a laptop and a wife buys perfume. Why doesn’t the wife buy a laptop?? Shou hal 7aki hayda. But as long as we shut up about it, the majority of our women will really believe that their purchasing priorities should be fashion w ta2 7anak as opposed to cameras, laptops, smart phones, etc.
Therefore, we must always speak up, and you must come join us and help us balance out gender discrimination in tech.
Here’s a video of an interview with me done by someone from APC about the internet and gender issues in Lebanon. This was during the CSW in New York last March. What we can definitely learn from this interview is that I talk too much.