Celebrating The Progress Lebanese Women Have Made In The Fight For Their Rights

Make sure you download this blog’s iOS app to stay up to date! (Link). 

I long for a day when we don’t need days like “International Women’s Day” to remind the world that its halves are not equal, or when March 8 is the day for fancy slogans before everyone goes back on March 9th to their old ways.

Today, I want to celebrate the entirety of the women in my country who, for years, have risen up to the patriarchy and fought for their rights with everything they’ve got. It’s hard to imagine that some of the rights Lebanese women have today were fiction less than a few decades ago. Hindsight is always 20/20 in how intuitive some things are, as the struggle to obtain them fades from memory.

But our women’s struggles for equality was difficult, and it will remain as such for years to come as long as we have politicians who joke about their rape, about their being, about their bodies, and who view them as nothing more than commodities to stay at home, and as even some women bring up hurdles for their own advancement.

Here’s how far our women have come:

  • In 1952, they gained the right to vote and to run for office.
  • In 1959, they gained equality in inheritance for non-Muslim sects.
  • In 1960, they gained the right to choose their nationality.
  • In 1975, they gained the right for freedom of movement. 
  • In 1983, they gained the right not to be prosecuted for using contraception.
  • In 1987, they gained the right to unify end of service age between men and woman in social security.
  • In 1993, they gained the right to obtain degrees in real estate.
  • In 1994, they gained the right to stay in the diplomatic course if they marry a foreigner.
  • In 1996, they scored a victory with Lebanon signing the international decree to abolish gender inequality.
  • In 2011, they were victorious in abolishing article 562, related to Honor crimes.
  • In 2014, they were victorious in having parliament pass a law protecting from domestic abuse.
  • In 2014, they were victorious in modifying the laws pertaining to maternity leave.
  • In 2016, they were victorious in abolishing article 522, which allowed their rapist to be absolved of his crime if he offered marriage.

The struggle never ends. It’s not enough for a president to say he supports gender equality, as President Aoun did today. Talk without action never amounts to anything.

Our women still can’t pass their nationality to their children. They are governed with a personal status law that stems from religious law, which views them as the second sex in ranking. They don’t have representatives quota in public office. They can’t open bank accounts for their children without the consent of their father, or even travel with their children without the approval of their father while it’s not the case the other way around. Their daughters as young as 9 can legally be married. They’re still victims of the male gaze that seems them as nothing more than raw meat, and of a patriarchal system that scrutinizes them more than any man, among many more things.

I will probably never understand how violated women would feel in their own skin, in their own gender, because of the discomfort that many people of my gender puts them in, but I will sure as hell fight tooth and nail for that reality to change for every Lebanese woman out there, every day, and not just on March 8th.

The struggle is real. You’ve been victorious. And here’s to many more victories.

 

Advertisements

Nadine Njeim Takes Lebanese Women Back 100 Years: Men Should Have Premarital Sex, But Not Women

Nadine Njeim

Former Lebanese beauty queen and current actress Nadine Njeim recently gave an interview to a program on Future TV in which she was asked about sex for men and women in society.

The conversation went as follows (my translation follows the video):

Reporter: Suppose your son turned 18 and said he wants to sleep with a girl he loves. What would you say?

Nadine: Go for it, certainly. He’s a man!

R: You allow a man but not a woman to do so?

N: Yes! He’s a man. If a man doesn’t get experience, he will be a 40 year old who won’t satisfy his wife. Marriage shouldn’t happen early for a man in my books.

R: But Nadine, religion equates men and women in that they are both not supposed to engage in premarital sex.

N: Yes, I agree. But at the end of the day, this is a boy. Boys have no flaws. You can’t tell a boy not to do such things. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t mature. You feel he has a weak personality if he doesn’t sleep or date women. Sex or no sex, love or not, fun or not. This is a boy. He needs to have his adventures in order to grow.

R: You’re saying this as a girl with a strong personality.

N: Yes, I’m not with equality between men and women.

R: Why?

N: I want women to stay women. If they equate me with a man, I’d feel like a man. I don’t want to. I want to stay a woman.

If you thought we were moving away from such conversation, think again.

I wonder which vagina Nadine Njeim’s son is supposed to penetrate in order to grow and be a “man” in all the Arab, patriarchal sense of the word that she means if she does not want women to have sex too.

It’s such a shame to see a woman with her status and reach set back women in the country and the region eons in their struggle for equality, starting with the most important liberation of all: their bodies. When Nadine Njeim insists that women should not engage in sexual activity but men should for whichever reasons she cites, she is inherently demeaning her gender as entities that are not allowed to enjoy their bodies, seek out the same “growth” she wants for their penis-equipped counterparts in society and, well, become strong and independent and whatever comes with sexual liberation in a society that thrives on sexual oppression of women and men alike.

At a time when we’re fighting tooth and nail to give Lebanese women a much-needed advantage in our societies, be it in laws, political representation or simply advancing them in places where they’ve been subdued for years, it’s a shame to see one of those women take such a public stance against her own gender, and to have that woman have a megaphone as big as Nadine Njeim’s.

By proclaiming that men and women should not be allowed to have the same experiences, Nadine Njeim is inherently approving of the fact that men should have an upper hand when it comes to other aspects as well. It’s not a far stretch to assume the gender that is allowed, according to her, to sleep around before marriage would also be allowed to hold a prerogative after marriage, such as forcing his wife to have sex even when she doesn’t want to or beating her into submission because she dared oppose him.

It starts with sex. Other matters of male and female equality will fall into play as well: job opportunities, careers, salaries, economic independence. Perhaps Ms. Njeim needs to be told that women wanting better, achieving more and seeking out their own pleasures, whichever those may be, does not mean they are becoming men, but rather fulfilling everything that them being women entails?

For a woman who has made millions playing strong independent women in horrid soap operas, she sure does not do that in real life. Someone give her an Oscar for going so hard against her grain.

I pity the daughter who’s gonna have her as a mother. She may inherit her mother’s good looks, but that mentality will not get her to the places she deserves to get to.

Lebanese women, don’t listen to Ms. Njeim. You deserve more than what she wants you to get.

Edit: Nadine N. Njeim explained herself in the following way:

via Lebanese Memes on Instagram.


It’s horrific she thinks this is an enough excuse for her objectifying of women, turning them into nothing more than pleasure toys for her son.