Lebanon’s Parliament Ridicules And Votes Down Anti-Sexual & Racial Harassment Law

lebanon_women_rights

If you needed anymore proof that the current batch of patriarchal parliament members are no good, look no further than their constant ridicule and systematic decimation of women rights. Even the law they passed to “protect” women from domestic abuse a few years ago was passed in a near stillborn form after decades of labor.

A few days ago, that parliament struck again when MP Ghassan Moukhaiber’s proposed law from 2014, aimed at criminalizing sexual and racial harassment, came up for a discussion and a vote. Instead of behaving in a civil manner and actually discussing the many merits of the law, which is of vital importance for the betterment of any society, our parliament members met the proposal with uproars and ridicule.

When MP Moukhaiber was reciting his proposed law, he was met with sneering laughs from other men in parliament who found him ridiculous. Among the things that were said by those in office whose job is to legislate and come up with laws to better our societies are the following, as reported by Rania Hamzeh:

  • You have too much free time on your hands, MP Moukhaiber,
  • We need a law to protect us from women,
  • What if a female employee wants to get revenge off her employer and accuses him of sexual harassment?
  • Are we going to consider every inappropriate text or whatsapp message as sexual harassment? We don’t want to open up such doors.

Needless to say, the law was then voted down and referred for further debate and deliberation among parliamentary committees, because, as you know, it’s so complicated apparently to consider sexual and racial harassment as illegal entities. Who knows when this law, which has been sitting in a drawer for the past 3 years, will be discussed or put up for a vote again.

Patriarchy and the sense of male entitlement that dictates our laws and that has infested the minds of most of our legislators strike again. It’s like our MPs don’t even care about any facet of society that is not them and what they represent in mentalities and in genders, knowing that they’re going to be voted in anyway because of how rotten our political system is.

Where were our few women MPs when such a law were discussed to voice outrage at having such basic human rights turned into jokes? Nowhere to be found.

If there’s a need for us to get rid of the current lot rotting away in our parliament, it’s now with the parliamentary vote (if it happens) that’s coming up in a few months. We can’t keep on voting for people in office who think sexual and racial harassments are jokes and who are more worried about where they, as men, stand in a society or how they might be affected by a law that criminalizes behaviors some of them have become way too used to.

Dear Lebanese MPs, if you are this disconnected with reality and this afraid for the disgusting privilege given to your gender through years of constant oppression of women, then you have no place to be legislators for the entire country in all of its people and its divisions.

The country doesn’t need people like you perpetuating a status quo that’s seeing it rot away and stagnate instead of moving with the times towards a more equal society. It needs people who are aware that women rights are human rights and that sexual harassment is not acceptable in any form, not open of “ifs” and “buts” and certainly not a matter of comic relief for you while discussing laws.

In any other “civilized” country, such a topic wouldn’t even be a matter of discussion and if what happened in Lebanon actually took place, it would end up being a scandal of unprecedented proportions. Instead, the session was closed and no film exists of it. We don’t even know which MPs were in attendance and which ones said what was mentioned previously.

I am ashamed that in 2017 my parliament has members who think the law proposed was a joke and actually managed to vote it down. I am horrified that someone who represents me towards my state has the audacity to make that timeless “we need a law to protect us from women” joke while working in an official capacity. This is the strength that our complacency has bestowed upon them: they can make fun of us and know they can get away with it.

No, dear MPs, you are not the gender who has to take in their employers’ sexual advances because they want to keep their job or who are too afraid to speak out about them being sexualized at any given moment because of fear of how society will look at them, not at the person harassing them, and – given this new information – because they have no law to protect them. You are not the section of our society that has been constantly marginalized and made sure to believe its place was as limited as it could be.

Human decency is more important than the laws that our MPs are always worried about, such as those pertaining to oil or even that electoral law they won’t pass. We can’t have a progressive society striving towards a better future if all of its components are not respected. Lebanon’s current parliament is making sure that such progression never happens. Simply, disgusting.

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Malek Maktabi’s Story of Zainab & Her Sri Lankan Mother Deepa Is A Disgrace To The Lebanese State

I am angry. Nay, angry is an understatement, I am livid. Anger wasn’t the only thing I felt yesterday. I was also deeply ashamed to be a citizen of a country where the story that Malek Maktabi’s show, in a rare instance of journalistic integrity, portrayed not only could happen, but is probably part of a bigger array of stories just waiting to be told.

The story, summarized, is as follows:

In 1991, Deepa Darmasiri was a Sri Lankan working as a housekeeper at a Lebanese household in the South. The husband in the household she was working in, whose name was always bleeped out and never mentioned, one day raped Deepa at knife-point, leading her to become pregnant.

Deepa did not want to get an abortion because she “never could imagine not meeting her child.” So she carried the baby to term. To make his rape legal and to be able to register the baby, that scumbag of a man exercised his religiously given right to polygamy and married Deepa.

Once Deepa gave birth, he took the baby girl whom he named Zainab – Deepa wanted to name her Huda – and got the mother deported back to her country, never to see or hear from her daughter ever again.

The story of a Lebanese daughter searching for her Sri Lankan mother is a heartbreaking reminder of how horrifying Lebanese patriarchy is. What’s worse is that Zainab is not a lone example of the disgusting state that our demented patriarchal laws have led us to.

Deepa is a victim on so many levels. She’s a victim for being a woman living in a country (and a world in the bigger sense) that sees her gender as inferior, both actually and legally. She’s a victim of Lebanese personal status law, placing her as inferior to her husband in all regards, even in the matter of him being able to divorce her as easily as he did, leading her to getting deported. She’s the victim of being from a nationality that we, as a country, deem as lesser. Because, you know, we as Lebanese are the creme de la creme and everyone else be damned.

Side note: Sri Lanka has better infrastructure than this dismal country currently has and will probably have for years to come. They have faster internet, 24/7 electricity, better water coverage and their women are more equal to men. But please, tell me more about how we think they’re inferior because they come work here in jobs we would never partake in, or because they’re black, or maybe because they’re not originally Phoenicians, or because any nationality that is not White and Western is one that we look down to thinking we are so much better.

News flash: we are not. Not even close. Deepa’s story shows how rotten to the core this country is.

Get this: we live in a country where a man was able to rape, impregnate, have the woman carry the child to term, take her baby away, have her deported NEVER to be able to come back again and still roam free.

Why? Because this is Lebanese patriarchy. This is how it works. Men are always superior. Lebanese are superior to non-Lebanese especially if those non-Lebanese don’t have a strong country to be able to defend them, and it’s just disgraceful. How is this man considered a human being, I wouldn’t know. He’s an abomination, pure and simple. Not only is that man still roaming free, never seeing a jail cell in his life for all the disgusting things he’s done, but he’s also probably protected by some politician down South that makes him impenetrable.

The disgraceful thing is that what he did was not illegal according to Lebanese law. He was perfectly within his rights as a man to do what he did to Deepa and to her daughter Zainab.

How horrifying is it that this man overpowered a helpless migrant worker, raped her, violated ALL her rights, her only fault being coming to this country to seek a better future for herself?

How horrifying is it that this man didn’t care in the least about his daughter, about the fact he brought her into this world as a result of raping a helpless woman after holding a knife to her throat?

How horrifying is it that Deepa had no one to run to, no one to help her, that our ministries of social affairs and labor wouldn’t have cared about her plight, about the fact she was violated that way?

Zainab and Deepa’s story is precisely why our laws need to be changed and I hope it provides the much needed catalyst for NGOs dealing with migrant workers to have a louder platform from which to proclaim their very rightful demands.

We cannot and should not be allowed to have an upper hand over workers who come from any country in the world just because they are coming to work here. We cannot and should not be allowed to have our men hold an upper hand over our women or any women wherever they come from, just because they happened to be born with a set of XY chromosomes.

We cannot and should not allow anyone to do what that scumbag did and still be allowed to roam free, unchecked and unpunished. As long as our laws allow them too, some men will do what this creature did, and others have probably done so plenty of times already. How many more Zainbas are out there because our state has enabled the perpetuation of this, because of our patriarchy and our sense that we are better than other “lesser” nationalities? It’s just disgraceful, and shameful.

What’s even more shameful are those who were bothered by this topic being discussed, under the pretext that it’s not New Year’s Eve material. Wake the hell up. This is a reality that is part of this wretched country every single day. You getting sad for a few seconds is upsetting you? You realizing this country’s laws are messed up to say the least is distressing you and ruining your party spirit? Deepa and her daughter Zainab never had any New Year Eves together because of the apathy of people like you.

42 days after she met her daughter, Deepa passed away probably from cancer. She couldn’t be flown to Lebanon to spend the remainder of her days with her daughter because getting a Lebanese visa to a Sri Lankan is near-impossible. This goes back again to our country thinking it’s better than others while our own citizens beg at the door of embassies for visas for other countries to seek out better futures.

I commend Malek Maktabi on his work with Zainab and Deepa’s story, and I sincerely hope this doesn’t stop at it being a NYE special to get viewers worked up. This should be as daily a conversation as possible, to hopefully reach a place where Lebanon’s state doesn’t perpetuate the existence of more Zainabs and more Deepas.

Deepa Darmasiri, rest in peace you beautiful gorgeous human being.

The Godfather – Movie Review

“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” has become one of the most popular and famous phrases to come out of a movie – ever. And that movie is The Godfather.

Set in 1940s New York, The Godfather tells the story of the Corleone family, a mafia, and their struggle to protect their legacy as rival families seek out their demise.

I will not write out a more detailed synopsis because it is near impossible to do so for this movie without ruining some plot moments. However, The Godfather is a tale that extends over many years without making it feel overstretched or even segregated into different time epochs.

The Godfather is a body of outstanding performances – and not only acting wise. The movie’s score, by Nino Rota, is haunting. Francis Ford Coppolla, a relative unknown at the time the movie was made, is absolutely brilliant in directing. The cinematography, run by Gordon Willis, plunges the movie’s character’s in their world perfectly.

The acting performances are beyond top-notch. Marlon Brando embodies the head of the Corleone family, Don Vito. His performance lets his character strut along the line of good and evil without blinking. As you watch Brando’s performance, you start remembering the many instances when you saw a character similar to Don Vito being acted out – be it with the voice, the attitude, the context…. And the many imitations of this character, after watching the movie, are justified.

The movie is also propelled by an outstanding performance by Al Pacino, as Don Vito’s son Michael, a returning war hero and a character that is even more fascinating that his father – wanting out of the “family business” because he thinks he doesn’t fit well with what they do. Diane Keaton is unrecognizable at first as Kay, Michael’s love interest and Robert Duvall is as mysterious as his enigmatic character Tom Hagen, Don Vito’s adopted son.

The Godfather is a movie in which, scene after scene, those making it prove they know what they’re doing. Be it the long wedding scene which sets the tone for a Machiavellian patriarchy, a character’s “bed” discovery, the many deaths that plague the mafia families, a character combing his hair in a restaurant nervously, etc… it keeps you attached, wanting to know how these characters would interact with what life throws at them.

It is no wonder The Godfather is considered one of the best movies ever made. There is an amount of ingenuity and creativity at work here that is unapproachable. Keep in mind this is a movie released about forty years ago (1972) – and there are movies today, with much better technology and resources available to them – that fail miserably at making something that would transcend the ages.

Winter’s Bone – Movie Review

This 2010 drama, set in the Ozarks Mountain in the U.S. is the story of a community that is deeply rooted in the manufacturing of amphetamines. This is the story of a rural community where keeping your mouth shut is the first commandment.

The director of this movie, Debra Granik, lived for a while in those communities. So it’s only natural that her representation of the community in this movie feels real. It’s bleak, dark, haunting… She shows the poverty, the patriarchy, the holiness of family and everything that this holiness entails, the rural aspect of it in such a brilliant way that at times you feel like you’re watching a documentary about the region. Even the accent was perfected by the actors and actresses that you forget this is actually a quest, more than a community presentation.

The movie stars Jennifer Lawrence, a brilliant newcomer, as Ree Dolly, a girl who’s the only caregiver of her mother, there in body only, and two siblings. She drops them out of school, teaches them to hunt and care for themselves, just in case… Her dad, Jessup, has gone missing and in order to keep her house and property, she needs to find him – dead or alive. Or else she’ll lose everything.

Now insert this in a community that is, the least you can say, non-helpful and very rigid about following the aforementioned first commandment and you get a movie that is thrilling, haunting and deservedly so, nominated for best picture as this year’s Oscars.

Everything in this movie is vicious. Even the moments of silence in it are terrifying. You don’t know what the people of this secluded community would do to harm Ree. And you can’t but feel what Ree is feeling, as the 17 year old girl trying to keep it together.

Jennifer Lawrence is epic in this. She’s my favorite acting performance of this year as the girl who, on her path to find any information about her dad, she will go through everything you don’t expect a 17 year old to live through. She portrays this role with a resilient stubbornness, indicative of the hardships she has gone through but she lets you in certain moments glimpse at her soul. There’s one scene, in a boat, that will leave you shaken to your core. When you watch it, you’ll know.

On her quest in this patriarchy, she must go through the wives, not the men. And the wife portrayed by Dale Dickey is a brilliant contrast: ice-cold, non-caring but human. Ultimately, this is the whole society. Even Ree’s uncle, played by John Hawkes, is at the same time ruthless but loving.

All in all, if you’re up for a movie that is deep, cold, dark and haunting, this is the movie for you.