Lebanon’s Is The 8th Worst Country In The World For Women Rights

Earlier today, Lebanese minister of internal affairs Nouhad el Machnouk gave an impassioned speech celebrating International Women’s Day in which he proclaimed Lebanese women are not that far behind compared to their male counterpart in the country, something that no other country in the region has achieved. In coming to that conclusion, Machnouk was in part reliant on the fact that Lebanese women were named among the world’s sexiest.

Congrats Lebanese ladies, your value is now directly correlated to your rack and how tight-clad your skirts are. Cue in the applause.

I’m sure this comes as no surprise for a governing body that is as disenchanted and disenfranchised from the population it’s governing as Lebanon’s governments, both current and past. The garbage on our streets is proof enough for that. 

The thing about Lebanon, however, is that it is the center of multiple international studies, as are most countries around the world, especially when it comes to the gender gap and women rights. Among those international studies is one carried out by the World Economic Forum, which was published in mid November 2015. 

That study’s findings can be summarized in the following infographic by LA Times’ Priya Krishnakumar:

Gender Gap worldwide

This puts us on a shameful list of countries where the gender gap is so severe that the term second sex does not delineate an other-hood but rather inferiority. We are 8th in the worst countries in the world when it comes to equality between men and women, adding it to another worst-of-list for us to be “proud” of.

Happy international women’s day my fellow Lebanese.

Our women can’t pass on our beautiful citizenship to their children, but what matters is that they can wear whatever they want (if their male family members deem it appropriate).

Our women have single-digit representation in a triple-digits parliament, but what matters is that one of those representatives is stunning (and would make a healthy argument to being on that sexiest countries list).

Our women’s wages are always inferior to their male counterparts in the country, but what matters is that those men have no problem spending the money on those women (because financial independence is so passé).

Our women’s participation in the workforce is inferior to their male counterparts in the country, but what matters certainly is those women’s job as housewives, bringing up generations (of children whose girls grow up to be just like their mothers and whose boys grow up just like their fathers).

Our women can get beaten to death legally at the hand of their spouse with no legal protection against that domestic abuse, but what matters is obviously for that man to remain the dominant figure in that household, his word never repeated twice.

Faced with such a reality, some of us Lebanese will look at that list and say: but Saudi Arabia isn’t there. Women can’t even drive there. Yes, because looking up to Saudi Arabia is obviously the best way for our society to move forward. There’s more to women rights than getting behind the wheel of a car.

If our governing bodies think that the entirety of Lebanese women is summarized by the touristy reports they see about Mar Mkhayel on a Saturday night, it’s our duty as Lebanese to be aware that our country extends beyond its party streets.

I hope Lebanon ends up on the other part of that infographic one day. Such a drift will not happen if we don’t all contribute to putting our women forward. These upcoming municipal elections, encourage your mothers and sisters to run. Encourage all our women who are so excellent at what they do to propagate their excellence onto a bigger medium. Mentalities need to change, and that is the best way to do so.

Until then, less Nouhad el Machnouk empty propaganda, and more reality please. Happy International Women’s Day, everyone.

The Disgusting Men of Lebanon

You’d think that in 2013, the least you could expect not to find is men in Lebanon who ridicule the struggle of our country’s women to be able to secure themselves and their children. But what can you expect from a country in which marriages of met3a and maysar and underage girls are absolutely legal while civil marriage causes a fatwa of apostasy.

It would have been more honorable of the mufti to issue a fatwa against the mentality of some of our country’s men.

The following image is something I have seen many men jump around on Facebook as a reply to the letter sent to Nabih Berri by a Southern Lebanese woman who was afraid for her life after the domestic abuse she had to go through.


Yes, these people exist. And many of them might be people that we actually know: who believe that women’s rights in this country should be non-existent. She is there to please and feed and breed. They are also more numerous than we want to believe.

We, as Internet users and people who fall mostly on the “liberal” side of the Lebanese spectrum, want to think we are a majority in the way we think and act. We want to believe that the majority of the country has similar ideologies. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The even sadder realization is that even if the proposed law passes, which is unlikely given some of the illiterate greatness we have in parliament, it will do little to protect the women of a state where applying laws is belittled, frowned upon and ridiculed.

They say a goat is lucky to find a resting place in Mount Lebanon. A goat, yes, but not a woman. Steer clear from here and some of its ridiculously stupid men.

Sex in Lebanon: How About We Stop Calling Our Women Whores?

The following is a guest post by an anonymous Lebanese woman.

I didn’t like my first time. Not because I was underprepared. Not because of the little pain I felt. Not because I didn’t feel pleasure after it. But because of what I thought people would think of me now that my hymen had been sloughed off.

I was 17 back then. Don’t faint. Yes, I was sexually active as a teenager. I’m 23 now. A lot has happened in 6 years.

I dumped my most recent boyfriend a while back. I had slept with him as well. Little did I know, however, that I’d get word that this so-called boyfriend was busy calling me a “whore” behind my back, letting everyone know about his exploits with me. He thought he had led me on. He thought I was so gullible I’d fall prey to his irresistible charm.

Time for a mini-vomit moment? Yes.

The thing my horrendous ex doesn’t know is that I wanted to sleep with him as much as he wanted to sleep with me. The thing I think most Lebanese guys don’t know is that we, Lebanese women, need sex as much as them. The only thing stopping us from pursuing it like they do is our fear from society turning on us.

“Chefto heide? Bento la flen? Eh heide charmou*a.”

I’m not afraid to walk around Hamra, my neighborhood, today with my head held high. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Who should be ashamed is every single person in Lebanese society who has no problem deflowering a girl or penetrating her, both literally and figuratively, and then pretend it was her fault for being receptive.

I have to ask those men busy calling women whores. Who are you sleeping with exactly? Dolls? Fleshlights? I rest my case.

For the women criticizing other women who sleep around, why don’t you do something useful instead? Like trying to get us into power, like trying to lobby against our current laws which are way more degrading to us than a reputation you think I’m forcing on you. Instead, you’re busy bringing down every other women who doesn’t fit into the conservative mold society has implanted in your head. I’m not judging you because of it. You have the right to be critical. But I’m pretty sure there are lots of things I can criticize about you. You don’t see me doing that, right?

People with glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Lebanese society, when it comes to sex, is slowly opening up. No pun intended. But we have a long way to go. No one has a problem admitting sex is a beautiful thing. And it sure is. But many have a problem acknowledging that people are actually having sex.

I spent last summer in Paris and it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I wasn’t afraid of what people would think of me if I had a little more than I should to drink at a pub. I didn’t care about what some guys would think if I was obviously hitting on them. I didn’t think what other girls would think about me being happy on a Saturday night.

I do that in Lebanon too.

But the thing is, the girls and guys of Paris didn’t care as well. Their equivalent in Lebanon would be eyeing me either as a potential prey or as a threat. Take your pick.

I recently read an article on NowLebanon by Angie Nassar titled “A Culture of blame” and while I believe her analogy between what happened with Myriam Klink and NewTV’s Ghadi Francis is a little far-fetched for my taste, I have to say that the most poignant point is made early on:

If a woman steps outside the strict boundaries of behavior prescribed to her, she faces communal rejection, stigmatization, violent assault (as in the case of Francis), and even death by way of “honor killing.”

The sad thing is that everyone’s participating in painting the box that women are allowed to be free in: the men, the women and our media.

For example, when it comes to the Myriam Klink incident, no one had a problem rejecting Nemr Abou Nassar for calling her a whore. Her song is sexually suggestive? Of course. But what right does that give anyone for calling her a whore, regardless of how “obvious” you might believe that is?

When it comes to the Ghadi Francis incident, if the SSNP – horrible as that party may be – had beaten up a man, wouldn’t that have caused a bigger stir than the basically irrelevant ripple that the Francis incident caused?

When it comes to everything in our society today, don’t you find that there’s a flagrant double criteria applied to women, the most simple of which is the issue of sex? Men are allowed to have sex. Women are not. If men become promiscuous, then they are deemed as studs. If we fool around, then we are whores.

People tell me that I need to appreciate my body and not let it defiled in the way that I think should be permitted. But I have to ask, what business does my body have to do with you? Isn’t this my skin, my muscles, my face, my breasts and – gasp – my vagina? Don’t I own all these things? Aren’t they the byproduct of my parents having sex to bring me here? Aren’t these my property and no one else’s? Don’t I get to do anything I want with something I own as long as it doesn’t hurt you?

I don’t see how me having sex is hurting you.

I don’t see how me having sex can be hurting anyone.

I don’t see how me having sex should elicit any response apart from the question from my girlfriends “so how was it?”

Sadly enough, getting to that point is still so far that the questions many of my girlfriends as me today is “how could you? After only the first date?”

Perhaps I’m a little hasty and upfront. Perhaps I should be a little slower. But the whole point is the reputation of Lebanon doesn’t rest on my body. Stop making it seem as if me having sex is hurting our country indefinitely. Stop making it seem as if the whole Lebanese situation rests on my hymen. Stop making it seem as if the whole solution of the sectarian system is contingent upon me being forever untouched. Stop making it seem as if being a good person can only happen with me not spreading my legs – ever – except for my future husband. Stop making it seem as if the only interaction men would want with a girl like me is to get into my pants. Not gonna happen.

If me spreading my legs for you will make you go all conservative on my reputation behind my back, then let me tell you something quite honestly. It’s going to be you and your hand every single night.

Fight Rape in Lebanon: The January 14th Protest

The women and men of Lebanon are taking it to the streets of Beirut on January 14 in their struggle to get our legislators to recognize rape as a criminal activity even among spouses, marital rape. As it is, Lebanese law only recognizes rape as such when it’s done by non-married individuals. And when the act of rape has been verified, the perpetrator has the right to offer marriage to the victim and his act would be absolved.

An interesting post by Beirut Spring regarding this matter exemplifies the distinction between marital rape and rape as the former being part of domestic laws, where men of religion rule supreme, and the latter being part of criminal laws, governed by parliament. And as you know in Lebanon, men of religion always win – especially when outdated scripture is their only reference for logic, not the needs of a 21st century society.

If that doesn’t sicken you enough, there’s even a section in our law that goes into the specifics of how torn a woman’s hymen has to be for her to be considered raped. I posted about it before, which you can check here.

But what’s worse is that most men, and many women, are very oblivious to how pejorative these laws are to them all. Sexual assault is not only exclusive to physical acts. Its scope also includes sexual harassment which Lebanese law doesn’t cover as well. Sure, these laws are giving the men of Lebanon an “upper hand” in society. But it’s not really an upper hand when this hand is raised over the other crucial component of Lebanese society: its women. A society where women are not given full rights is a dysfunctional society at its heart and core.

Men are also affected by the unfairness of the laws, although obviously not as much as women. I’m certain no father, husband, brother would accept his sister or wife or any female member of his family and close circle be violated in any way – and to have no law for her to lean on and defend her.

The January 14 protest is needed for Lebanese society. It’s the first time I’ve seen an anti-rape march getting this much propagation around the social networks. This is a sign as to how much the youth in our community want to change thing. But I have a simple question that doesn’t attempt in any way whatsoever to lessen the importance of the protest at hand.

Rape is a crime, regardless of who does it.

What do the protesters truly hope to achieve? I’m only asking this out of concern for the cause. The objective of the protest is surely righteous. But I can’t shake the feeling that this movement is stillborn for many reasons.

In my opinion, a parliament full of men taken straight of the dark ages will never ratify a law that brings the women of Lebanon into the 21st century. Like it or not, the men of our parliament (not all of them obviously but a decent chunk of them) are fine with the status quo. It doesn’t help that women have less than 10 MPs out of 128 to represent them (and not properly may I add). Perhaps the fight should be to ensure that women can actually get to office and fight for their rights from there. Perhaps the women of Lebanon should protest to get the elite of them, who can actually voice their concerns during parliamentary sessions, to be their parliament representatives. And there are many elite women in Lebanese society, who surpass at least half the men of our current parliament in qualifications.

It is here that the need for an upheaval of our laws is in need – and such changes cannot happen in the drastic way that they are needed without active female participation in making the decisions. You might think the “female quota” is limiting. Well ponder on this: is the situation without the quota any better? And can it get any better without a quota?

This post is not to lessen of the importance of the protest nor is it to belittle of the demands, as I made obvious in the first part of this post. This is simply to say that in the current political atmosphere of the country, the only way for women to have their full rights given is to assert political power. And women asserting political power cannot happen except through an electoral law that suits their needs . We’d be fools if we thought Lebanese officials actually cared about rape at the moment. The women (and the men of Lebanon who support them) would be fools to believe the men of our parliament actually care enough, deep down, to change things on the ground. All they care about is doing whatever they can to get re-elected next year. Many believe the ultimate solution is a civil state. Sure, a civil state is needed. But a Lebanese civil state will take a long time to happen in Lebanon and this matter is very urgent – more urgent than the oil law that has been debated for months now.

There is something, however, that is happening much sooner than a Lebanese civil state. Parliamentary elections are in a year. The law to run these elections is being discussed now. In a few months, the preparations for the elections will go underway and the voices of these women will be diluted and tuned out – unless they get their voices heard now and get themselves a secured proportion of representation in the parliament that will arise from the 2013 elections.

So Saturday’s protest becomes, as I see it and as Beirut Spring eloquently put in a follow-up post, “a watershed demonstration against denial and stigma in our society.” Perhaps it will get more people to be aware of the horrors our women have to face. Will it bring about change? I doubt the stubbornness of those in charge will let any change happen. So on Saturday the women and men of Lebanon march for a righteous cause. And I truly hope the slogans they will chant up until their vocal cords rip won’t fall onto ears as dead as the laws they want to change.

Lebanese Law on Rape & Virginity: The Hymen Criteria

As many of you know, I am currently pursuing a medical degree. And as part of our medical education, we get numerous anatomy lectures that cover every human body part in its dull details.

On Tuesday, we were being given a lecture about the female pelvis and perineum. Being a morning lecture, most of the class was asleep – that is until the discussion about hymens started.

For those of you who don’t know, the hymen is a thin epithelial perforated layer that serves as a “curtain” to the vagina. For many, it is considered as a sign of “virginity” although it isn’t a highly credible criteria: the hymen being as thin as it is can be broken off in many ways that do not include intercourse and can also be repaired through a procedure called hymenoplasty.

But in our parts of the world, this 2 cm layer of skin is the honor of a man, not knowing that true honor comes by not caring about such minute details in the first place. After all, men in our region are considered as “men” if they have had premarital sex and those same men condemn the women who do as if they’d be having sex alone.

But I digress. This is not a post to discuss our region’s sociological ways.

During that same lecture, the doctor giving the lecture opened up a discussion about one criteria of rape in Lebanese law. I know our law when it comes to rape is overly messed up. There’s nothing that works in it. But this part of it, which most people are often clueless about, is simply mind-blowlingly stupid.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of that law where if someone commits suicide and they happen to fall on your car then it’s automatically your fault? Well this its vagina-equivalence.

What’s the law? If a girl said she were raped but her hymen had not been torn off to the walls of the vagina, then it’s not considered rape.

Meaning, if it’s obvious the girl had intercourse but the intercourse had not caused her hymen to be torn off completely, then the examining physician cannot say she was raped.

In a part of our laws that is so absurd, this often goes unnoticed that even the doctor giving us the lecture was outraged at the number of times he had to dismiss women who were obviously violated just because Lebanese law does not allow him to say so.