Two at one of the 2019 protests in Beirut. Photo credit: Victoria El-Khoury ZweinBEIRUT, Lebanon, March 12th (IPS) – The global fight for equality has taken some steps forward in some countries, giving future generations a glimmer of hope for greater participation and representation of women. However, this particular struggle is taking on new forms in many parts of the world, with women still being persecuted, silenced, threatened, killed, molested and deprived of their basic human rights on a daily basis. The question today is when will the world be safer for women and girls?
While the severity is unequal across countries, Lebanese women and girls fight on multiple fronts every day. While many civil society organizations (CSOs) and United Nations organizations are working on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5) for gender equality, the facts point to a reality that will take years to bring about gender equality under the 2030 Agenda To achieve Lebanon on the 2020 Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index ranks 145th out of 153 countries when it comes to equality and gender equality.
The political participation of Lebanese women has increased over the years. This was particularly evident in the 2018 parliamentary elections with 86 registered candidates. This was the result of a study by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) entitled “2018 Lebanese Parliamentary Elections: Gender Key Results”. In contrast to the parliamentary elections of 2009, in which only 12 candidates took part. In January 2020 and as a result of the 2019 Lebanese Revolution, a new cabinet formed by Prime Minister Hassan Diab included 6 women ministers, a first in Lebanese history.
Victoria El-Khoury Two; Political Activist & Trainer – This unequal political representation is due to gender stereotypes that Lebanese women still face on a daily basis. Political activist and trainer Victoria El-Khoury Zwein told IPS that women are still faced with gender stereotypes in their elections. As a woman in politics, Zwein stated that she faced numerous challenges, particularly when she ran for the first time in the town where she lived in the local elections in 2004 while she was pregnant. “They said I was a foreign pregnant woman with children and I had to take care of her,” she said, adding, “It seemed like there were no more men to run for elections. ”
The political activist ran for the 2016 local elections after more than a decade and was welcomed with a friendlier demeanor by residents of Sin-el-fil, where she won by a high number of votes.
Zwein believes that politics in Lebanon should be seen and practiced differently; She was then pressured to run for the Lebanese parliamentary elections in 2018.
Zwein pointed out to IPS the political violence women are exposed to in this area. “Women are confronted with violence in all aspects. They are addressed with comments on social media and receive constant threats of rape and abuse, especially when publicly controversial political opinions are expressed. “Zwein stated that when women discuss political issues, they are exposed to attacks on their personal lives that could potentially end their careers, while men are not faced with the same shameful attitude:” Any sexual scandal that hits men in politics , it doesn’t get a lot of attention and a male politician could still be prime minister if he wanted, but never a woman, ”explained Zwein.
Additionally, the activist pointed out that the media plays a huge role in strengthening gender stereotypes as some inherently sexist and derogatory questions are asked of female candidates during interviews, such as: B. juggling their professional and personal lives and whether or not they have their spouse’s approval and support. “Violence against women politicians only occurs because they are women,” emphasized Zwein.
Violence against women in Lebanon takes different forms. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in domestic abuse, gender-based violence and femicides in Lebanon and around the world. The United Nations refer to this phenomenon as a “shadow pandemic”. This escalation in domestic violence was reflected in an increase in the number of calls from 1375 in 2019 to 4127 in 2020 to the domestic violence hotline affiliated with ABAAD. a Lebanese resource center for gender equality. In addition, the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) domestic violence hotline (1745) recorded 1,468 calls from 2020 to 2021, as opposed to 747 calls between 2019 and 2020, showing domestic violence reports nearly doubled over the past year to have. According to the ISF, 61 percent of these abuse reports are filed against husbands.
Hayat Mirshad; Gender expert, journalist and human rights activist *. Credit: UN WomenMultiple women’s rights experts have attributed the rise in gender-based violence to the unprecedented lockdown and economic crisis Lebanon is currently facing. Hayat Mirshad, gender expert, journalist and human rights activist, told IPS: “Not a week goes by in Lebanon without hearing about the news of the murder of a woman who was the result of domestic violence. More than 5 femicides have occurred since early 2021 to date, indicating an alarming exacerbation of this phenomenon. ”
Mirshad explained that the real problem with gender-based violence is the societal ultur and conservative mentality that justifies abuse and violence against women and girls by holding victims accountable for the abuse. The justifications often refer to, among other things, the honor and disobedience of their spouse. “It is important to note that Lebanon has a law protecting women and girls from domestic violence that has recently been amended. The real problem, however, is the implementation of this law, ”said Mirshad.
The gender expert pointed out that the measures taken by the authorities are not as strict as they should be and that a lot of time is still wasted when it comes to taking real action and separating the victim from the perpetrator . “We are still witnessing patriarchal practices in the courts, by various judges, by the Internal Security Forces (ISF) and many other agencies. This also contributes to the increase in cases of gender-based violence, ”added Mirshad.
The activist stressed the government’s critical role in implementing all aspects of the law protecting women and girls from domestic violence, such as providing financial support to victims, which encourages more victims to leave abusive households. It is necessary to treat such matters with the appropriate urgency, imposing stronger sanctions on the perpetrators and speeding up the prosecution process.
According to “Sharika Wa Laken”, a feminist online platform, 27 women and girls were murdered in Lebanon in 2020 and 5 women in 2021. The youngest victims were Zeina Kanjo, a young newlywed who had married 6 months before the murder, and both middle-aged women Widad Hassoun and Ahkam Derbas, who in 2021 among many other women and girls who were hard hit by abusive spouses, relatives or even strangers injured, brutally murdered.
In June 2020, the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA) started the “Qudwa” initiative in cooperation with the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), among other donors. This initiative addresses violence against women and children, particularly child marriage, child labor and gender-based violence, which is expected to be effective from 2020 to 2027 to promote equality and dignity. In addition, the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW), Task Force on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV TF), together with the United Nations system in Lebanon, launched a campaign for the 16 Days of Activism (November 16 – December 10, 2020) Promote security and prevent gender-based violence …
The start of such projects and campaigns in cooperation with Lebanese ministries and official institutions gives hope to women and girls who now live in harsh conditions, although noticeable changes can still be seen in the number of victims in Lebanon.
The reality of Lebanese women still requires drastic changes that can only be brought about by improved laws and guidelines. These changes can only be achieved if women are reassigned a seat at the decision-making table and given the opportunity to influence laws that take into account women’s struggle for equality, gender equality and security. Lebanon is considering possible parliamentary elections in the uncertain near future in hopes of changing this unfortunate reality.
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