WOMEN IN LEBANON
Student: Robin Fagerlund
Module: Introduction to Arabic Culture and Language
Module Leader: Sam Mohamad
Table of contents
Women social status 2
Women in Lebanon are considered luckier than their Arab counterparts. This is because Lebanon with its nice capital of Lebanon is viewed as quite liberal. Indeed the atmosphere in Beirut is unlike that of any other Arab nation. The clubs are usually teeming with young women clad in liberal Western clothes. This is a far from the hijabs that are common in countries like Saudi Arabia (Lievesley and Rai 2013).
However, things still need improvement in this tiny Arab nation. Women typically enjoy the same social, political and economic rights as their male counterparts in this tiny Arab nation (Alexander, 2015). However, the idea of gender roles is still very pervasive. Nowadays, the girl-child has been empowered. However, the situation has not always been like that for hundreds of years. Men have always assumed a higher status within society since they were the main breadwinners for their families.
Women social status
The family structure is largely patriarchal with the father being seen as the central figure. He owns the family land and it is his earnings which sustain society. The women’s roles are confined to housekeeping and tending their young ones. This is especially the case in the rural parts of Lebanon. The deplorable situation of women in these places is entrenched by the religious and cultural teachings and customs. These teach that the woman should act under total subjugation to her husband or father. However, it would be unfair to state that the ill-treatment of women has anything to do with their religion. Gender inequality in Lebanese society existed even before religion was taught there (Dwyer, 2016).
In the 1970s there was a mass exit of young able-bodied men in Lebanon. They immigrated to the Gulf States in order to look for opportunities in the oil industry there. With the departure of the men, the women began to take on stronger and more independent roles in Lebanese society. No longer were their tasks and duties limited to the home alone. However, any gain or step that had been made was quickly eroded by the religious revolution that swept through Lebanon in the 1980s. The revolution quickly reestablished cultural and religious norms such as the wearing of religious dress. Similarly, women were now expected to take on their traditional roles (Sidani, 2018). However, just as in the 1970s, the war saw the mass exit of men who left to join the war efforts. Women were again expected to take on the manlier roles that the men had abandoned.
At first look, it may seem like Lebanon is just like any other country fighting for gender equality and against the oppression of women. However, what is unique about Lebanon and other Gulf nations is that the patriarchal system is so entrenched in the country that even educated women are somewhat expected to take care of their families before pursuing their interests and careers (Shryock, 2010). However, even with that being the case, Lebanese women are almost at par with their male counterparts. A study conducted in 1983 showed that women constituted 41 percent of the total student population at the American University of Beirut. In addition, Lebanese have been accorded the right to vote in elections since 1953.
In addition, Lebanon ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1996. In fact, Lebanon was among the first Arab nations to give women the right to vote just as the men could.
Lebanese women are also active in the women leagues of the main political parties. In the recent past, Lebanese women’s rights groups were up in arms against a member of the Lebanese parliament who had stated in a public address that women were sometimes to blame for rape. The speaker, Mr. Elie Marouni was speaking in a conference that had been organized by one of the leading NGOs in Lebanon. This is the Lebanese Democratic Women’s Gathering. This fact that women were able to speak up against such sexist comments is a pointer to the strides taken by the country. In addition, women activists who label themselves as feminists are at risk of being shunned by society. In this highly conservative country, anything that goes against the established social order is opposed vehemently (Durac and Cavatorta 2010).
Obtaining gender equality and equal rights have also been rendered hard and nearly impossible by the occurrence of economic and political strife. Poverty is a factor that has greatly discouraged the march of women’s rights groups. In the rural areas of Lebanon, certain discriminative policies are still practiced. This includes rapists being expected to marry their victims. The sense of justice for female victims is usually quite underwhelming. In some of these backward regions such as North Lebanon, gender inequality sometimes leads to actual physical violence. Today, active women’s rights groups such as KAFA and the Lebanese Democratic Women’s Gathering have had enough. They are standing up to the oppression and discrimination in ways that could not have been imagined before. Through social activism, it is hoped that the gender inequality situation in Lebanon will be reversed (Charles and Denman 2013).
Alexander, A., 2015. Eroding patriarchy: the co-evolution of women’s rights and emancipative values.. International Review of Sociology, 2(34), pp. 144-165.
Charles, L. and Denman, K., 2013. Syrian and Palestinian Syrian refugees in Lebanon: the plight of women and children. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 14(5), pp.96-111.
Durac, V. and Cavatorta, F., 2010. Civil society and democratization in the Arab world: The dynamics of activism. Routledge.
Dwyer, K., 2016. Arab Voices: the human rights debate in the Middle East. Routledge.
Lievesley, G. and Rai, S.M. eds., 2013. Women and the state: International perspectives. Taylor & Francis.
Shryock, A. ed., 2010. Islamophobia/Islamophilia: Beyond the politics of enemy and friend. Indiana University Press.
Sidani, Y. M., 2018. Glass doors or sealed borders? Careers of veiled Muslim women in Lebanon.. Research Handbook of Diversity and Careers, Volume 3, p. 343.