Let’s Help 30 Lebanese Children & Victims Of Abuse Get An Education!

In a study done by Kafa, in association with the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs, this is the situation of Lebanese children in Lebanon:

  • 885,000 children are victims of abuse,
  • Of those children, 738,000 are also victims of physical abuse,
  • 219,000 are victims of sexual abuse.

These numbers are staggering, especially when the country is only made up of 4 million people, give or take a few hundred thousands.

If there’s any entity that can really and fundamentally alter the fabrics of Lebanese society, it’s education. All of us are where we are today because our parents were lucky enough to be able to provide for us the best opportunities that they could provide, the best education that they could afford.

It’s not unusual that Lebanon’s hubs of radicalism and of conflict are its poorest areas where children don’t get proper education and where the government doesn’t even remotely care that it can allow itself not to properly pay for school properties so they close.

School Tebbaneh Lebanon Closed

The situation is horrible. For a country with the best universities and schools of the region, the levels of illiteracy we have, especially of females, is unacceptable.

So because the government is too busy with garbage than to care about other important facets of our life, a couple of guys named Rami & Rayan Rasamny decided to do something bold in order to raise $10,570, which will help the Lebanese NGO Himaya provide education for 30 Lebanese children who have been victims of abuse for the next scholastic years.

To do so, Rami and Rayan are going to climb the “Mont Blanc” peak in France in order to fundraise for this cause. The amount they’re hoping to raise will cover tuition fees, stationary and transportation for these 30 children.

If you’re a parent, think of how important you providing an education to your child is, and then try to give to those who are not as lucky.

Even if you’re not a parent, think of how luck you are to be where you are today because you went to school and then university and made a thing out of yourself.

There’s probably nothing as important as this. Check out the fundraising link here.


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.

Crash – Movie Review

Crash is a rare cinematic event. It is a highly undercut movie, in the sense that almost everyone thinks it did not deserve the awards it got. It’s also an underrated movie, in the sense that not many people truly appreciate its genius.

Set over a period of 36 hours in post 9/11 Los Angeles, Crash is literally a snapshot in the lives of a few people that inhabit the city. A racist white cop who disgusts his partner, an African-American TV director and his wife, a Persian store-owner inept with English, a white suburban wife, whose idea of a perfect life is one that doesn’t involve much of the different other, and her DA Husband, two car-jackers, two racially different investigators who happen to be lovers and a Mexican locksmith trying to sustain his wife and daughter.

Crash examines the cultural crash that takes place when all these characters come together. It intelligently examines the fear and bigotry that take place when we don’t understand what the other is dealing with. It shows how everyone is intolerant at points, how no one is immune to violence that, at some points, can change lives drastically.

Continue reading