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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.