Let’s call her Rachel.
Rachel is a brilliant doctor. She went to the US from a far away country, battled her way through a speciality and ended up doing a subspecialty that brought her salary to the six figures. She had what many people – not just women – around the world can only dream of: economic stability and independence, influence, power.
And yet, Rachel went to work one day with a bruise on her arm. Her secretary asked her where that bruise had come from. I bumped into a revolving door, Rachel answered. The secretary was skeptical but dismissed it because she couldn’t do otherwise. A week later, Rachel came in with a bruised eye. There was no revolving door which can cause this, so the secretary called 911 who made sure Rachel’s upcoming days were nothing short of safe, away from the monster back home who was using her as his punching bag.
Why would a woman in Rachel’s shoes, who has the prerogative of a police task-force that is willing to bring hell on Earth for her, not report the constant threat on her life?
When I was in France last August, I was taking a walk one night around Lille when I saw a shady looking man, smoking a joint with while clutching the hand of a girl who looked at him with nothing but fear in her face. He was either too stoned to see me or the night hid me well or that man didn’t care that people might see him, but he turned to the woman and tried to feel her up. She recoiled and tried to get herself off of him. So he slapped her hard across the face. As she clutched her face in pain, I heard him shouting across the street: “You stupid cunt, you better make up for this. Once we get home, you will give me a blow job. You hear me, bitch?” She nodded.
These women, in spite of the environment that enriches them: laws, jobs and possible economic security, still find it somehow fathomable not to report the threats on their lives. But they are not lone examples. Their submissive mentality is the case of many, many Lebanese women who don’t have their prerogatives.
As a future physician, I am required to learn how to take proper patient history. It also happens that I am currently rotating in obstetrics and gynecology, which is the rotation where many battered women end up for consults that have nothing to do with the battering. You’d think we should be allowed to tackle such issues – after all, medicine isn’t confined to a patient’s physical state but extends to their state of mind. Think again. An advice I got from an attending was the following: calling the police is useless. Their reply is always: let them sort this among each other. What’s worse, the question about domestic violence – which is typical in history taking in the United States – is near-forbidden over here. People are not willing to divulge such information, especially the women.
Many in Lebanon believe a law preventing domestic abuse is the solution to the problem for which people are becoming increasingly aware. Many believe the law safely tucked away in the drawers of our dysfunctional parliament is enough to prevent deaths such as that of Roula Yaacoub.
What those many fail to realize is that Lebanese women are more than just the liberated bunch who are vocal on social media, who go to the rallies asking for women rights, who believe they have the right to abort at will, who believe their body is theirs and theirs alone and who believes men are equal (if not lesser creatures).
Lebanon has the women who can’t visit their gynecologist without their husbands by their side, answering when their last menstrual period was. Lebanon has the women who let their sons badmouth them and let them be because they don’t want to break their ego. Lebanon has the women who vote the way any male component in their family wants – the more senior, the better. Lebanon has the women who stay silent to insults just because the men have seniority. Lebanon has the women who bottle things in just to avoid scandals. Lebanon has the women who would rather be some neo-martyrs than to fight for what they should have and have their reputation tarnished.
Those women are not just Lebanese. They are the ones we forget about – they are the more numerous, the ones shaping generations that will have their sons inflict such violence on other women.
Lebanon also has a police system that is as corrupt as they come. Lebanon has MPs whose minds belong in 10,000BC when it comes to women rights – our rights debate needs lightyears to be about pro life and pro choice. Lebanon has physicians who perpetuate such violence against women with mentalities that are non-medical to say the least. Lebanon has a dysfunctional legal system, where law is near-hereditary and where justice is so dragged on it’s impossible to find it anymore. Lebanon has a mentality towards laws that prevents any of the ones that do not bring upon the state some form of revenue from being strictly implemented. And even those are not implemented as well.
What does Lebanon need? We need some massive de-learning of our ways in order to learn ways that will protect our women. How is that achieved? I really don’t know. What I know, however, is the following: this domestic violence law they keep telling us about is not the definitive answer and nor will it be for our women who are losing their lives to belts and kicks and punches.