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

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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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No, Wanting to Date & Have Sex Doesn’t Make Lebanese Women Whores

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It’s 2017 and we’re still talking about this, but then again what can you expect when one of your country’s “liberal” TV stations is more conservative than America’s Fox News?

Earlier today, following this viral blog post, MTV decided to take part of the crusade against the seriously bad show on LBCI called Take Me Out.

Whilst the blogpost they tried to copy was somewhat conservative in tone as is the writer who penned it, a relative of mine whom I respect enormously, MTV took it to another extreme by calling the women on the show, without explicitly saying the word, whores.

This happened after a guy took off his shirt on TV. So the women got the short end of the stick? If you don’t get it, don’t even try.

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To them, being on a TV show about dating and wanting to go out on dates or – gasp – even have sex degrades the value of our women. The vocabulary used in that article was as degrading as it gets, reminiscent of those arguments that should have been way behind us as society but unfortunately aren’t, let alone arguments used by a TV station whose pre-requisite for female media personnel is them having good enough looks.

I quote (and translate): “Do the producers of Take Me Out accept for their daughters or nieces or sisters to participate in such a show? Don’t the women participating in the show have fathers or brothers who refuse the level of public prostitution that their daughters and sisters are doing on TV?”

Because, as we know, the only relevant reference for what a female entity can do in this country is always in reference to her male superior figure. This is just disgraceful and shameful.

No MTV (and whoever in Lebanon agrees with it), our women can do whatever the fuck they want without having entities like you breathing down their neck, thinking you are allowed to have the “moral” high ground. The only ground you get is a ditch somewhere where your disgusting backward thoughts can rot.

No MTV (and whoever in Lebanon agrees with it), our women don’t need their brothers or fathers to tell them what they can or cannot do. They don’t need a man to dictate their lives for them. They don’t need you to beseech that male figure that exists in their life to defend their honor because people without honor can’t call it for others.

No MTV (and whoever in Lebanon agrees with it), our women don’t need your approval or the approval of anyone other than themselves to go out on dates, sleep with whoever they want and do whatever they please. You’re shocked? Let me shock you further: our women have the right to enjoy their bodies as much as they want, drool over as many men or women as they want, and do whatever makes them happy. And the best part is? It’s none of your business.

No MTV (and whoever in Lebanon agrees with it), you do not get to preach about morals when you sell sex at every possible chance you get and would sell anything sexual whose rights you’re able to procure if it gets you enough ratings. You don’t even get to worry about the reputation we “sell” of ourselves to Arab countries because they’re not even a standard anyone should follow when it comes to reputations or women rights. Isn’t the fact that your shows are getting beaten according to IPSOS why you’re suddenly the knights in shining armor coming in to defend our women’s hymens?

We have a long way to go before our women can get the same rights and privileges as the men in our society, but that won’t happen when they’re still being shamed, in 2017, for wanting to date and have sex and seek out pleasures that others may not approve of.

You don’t want women to have sex? Well, keep it in your pants and cross your legs. You don’t want women to date? Then talk to your mother about arranging you the next available husband or wife. But don’t you ever think that you get to dictate your narrow-minded point of view on others, under the guise of morals, and get away with it.

You know we’re fast hitting rock bottom when a trashy TV show is used to spark a conversation about morals. To quote MTV: متل الش… يلي بتحاضر بالعفة.  W 7zaro l sh ya shatrin. 

 

Article 522 Allowing Lebanese Men To Rape Women Then Marry Them To Be Abolished

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One of the many backwards thing in the Lebanese legal system is article 522, which allows a rapist to marry his victim (or at least propose marriage) which would clear him of any wrong-doing. Add it to the growing list of abuses to women and minority rights that our laws allow.

Over the past few weeks, a growing campaign, bolstered by a superb viral video about article 522, aimed at getting parliamentary committees and ultimately parliament to abolish this law from the Lebanese penal code.

Today, the parliamentary committee on Administration and Justice agreed to abolish the law, with another meeting set up for December 14th in order to come up with a draft to be submitted to parliament for its abolishing.

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Of course, because this is Lebanon and a ton of things can go wrong, this doesn’t mean that the fight should stop now. If anything, we should bolster efforts to keep the pressure going especially given that there’s bound to be more than a few parliament members who are entrenched in Lebanese patriarchy that they’re definitely going to have more than a few reasons to want to keep this law around.

Such a law existing in 2016 is a disgusting abomination and reflects negatively on every single Lebanese citizen regardless of gender. It exists in the framework of keeping the “dignity of the victim and her family,” because in the Lebanese patriarchal sense, the only meaning of dignity is virginity, because having both your body and then your rights violated in the most horrific of ways is the best way to keep your dignity, not – say – throwing the rapist and criminal in jail for a very long time.

I hope our parliament doesn’t send this law’s modifications into one of its many drawers of laws left to die, with the justification that there are things more important for them to debate. There isn’t anything in this country that’s more important – electoral laws and whatnot included – than the sanctity of our rights and our bodies.

To Lebanon’s women who have been fighting for years against this transgression to their rights, here’s hoping the fight reaches an ultimately satisfying conclusion. Congrats on the first step.

Your 10-Step Official Guide To Becoming The Next Miss Lebanon

 

It was so unfortunate that I couldn’t watch the much awaited coronation of this year’s Miss Lebanon yesterday, but I’ve since caught up and I believe I’ve reached the perfect formula for you to win next year.

Why apply to Miss Lebanon? Well frankly, because you basically strut around for a few minutes then end up winning prizes worth around $500,000, and once your reign is done you become an actress or a model or a singer or all three together and you’re set for life. So why the hell not?

Step 1: Be Christian

This cannot be stressed enough. Well, every few decades or so this step doesn’t end up helping, but for the most part it’s a fool-proof method for you to make headway. As such, make sure your name is as westernized as possible. I mean, can you even imagine at some point in time several years ago we had a Miss Lebanon named Rahaf? Who does that?

Step 2: Leave Your Common Sense At Home

You want the president to send out Beirut’s garbage to hospitals? You just say it. You want people to, like, get, like, maps, because, like, Lebanon, you tell them! There are no wrong answers here. You will be applauded. You are being graded on a generous curve whereby you will get at least a 9.7/10 regardless of what you say. You will be celebrated anyway, so just express your deepest and most profound id for anyone and everyone to hear.

Step 3: Collect Eclectic Hobbies:

Miss Lebanon cannot be miss-girl-next-door-who-likes-to-binge-drink-in-MM-every-weekend-or-go-to-roadster-with-her-besties-every-other-day. No. You have to be a beacon of hope for every Lebanese out there, male or female, for them to look up to you and want to make something out of themselves. It doesn’t matter if you don’t hike, hiking is now your hobby. It doesn’t matter if the only time you’ve floated was at the Dead Sea, you are now the next Katie Ledecky. It doesn’t matter if the only book you’ve read is “The Secret,” your favorite author is now Nietzsche (or some other person lots of people pretend to read to sound sophisticated).

Step 4: Lebanon Is The Most Beautiful Thing To Ever Exist:

This cannot be stressed enough. It doesn’t matter that it takes you seven hours in traffic to get to your audition, or that you almost vomited on the way from the stench of garbage or that you got there and had to wait for them to kick start their generators because no electricity or that on the way while snapping with that beauty face, goat face, flower crown face somehow Alfa took away 1.5GB of your 3G and you have no idea how. No. The moment you’re on that stage, your answer to any question asked HAS to culminate in how YOU will propagate to the world how Lebanon is the best thing that Allah ever created. Period.

Step 5: Do Not Be Yourself:

You may like civil marriage in the privacy of your own home, or support LGBT rights with your friends, or support a woman’s right to be sexually liberated and to have a choice when it comes to her own body around your besties, but this is not the place to show them. You are to be as conservative as you can, in the confines of not turning into ISIS. To make it passable, bring out the best smile you can. If you can’t smile (refer to our new Miss), pretend to.

Step 6: Leave your personal opinion about everything at the door:

Listen, it’s nice to have character. But please, make it as generic as possible. No one wants a feisty woman with opinions ~shivers~ to represent the country. No. You want world peace. You want to make Lebanon greater again (because it’s already great). You want to support women. You want to help the refugees. You want to decrease sectarianism. The key is broad headlines to get you applause while essentially being worthless.

Step 7: Be a Brunette:

No Lebanese wants a blonde to represent them. That is just not us. If you have blonde hair thinking that’ll make you stand out, make sure you change the color asap. Brunette is the way to go. Look at the past few years. It’s a recurrent trend. And if not brunette, darker colors will work too to a lesser extent.

Step 8: Get your height up to par:

176cm. At least. Get there. How, I don’t know. Deal with it yourself.

Step 9: Learn French to sound more sophisticated:

You may use English in your daily life, but the Miss Lebanon stage is the place to dig up those rustic French skills you last used in your high school bacc exam. Unless you’re a USJ student. It makes you sound more sophisticated, refined. It makes them want to elect you so you’d give the world that doesn’t care about us in the first place a more polished look about us. It’s equitation, not horseback riding. Je jure!

Step 10: Get your wasta in order:

 

This makes all the previous 10 steps worthless. It doesn’t matter if you need to sleep with all members of the jury, male and female, or any politician who knows anyone who might be influential in the process. Some things are worth it, even if that politician was the current PM.

And then haters gonna hate anyway when there’s someone who was just SO much prettier who didn’t win because she did not have this secret recipe. 

When Gebran Bassil’s Goons Don’t Understand Freedom of Speech

Breaking news: Gebran Bassil turned out to be yet another racist Lebanese politician. I have no idea how this piece of news was in any way a surprise, but over the past few days it’s almost the only thing people are talking about, apart from the fact that our phones now need Maps updates in order to skip the roads where garbage bags have started to take up lanes.

The details are as follows:

A few days ago, Gebran Bassil’s twitter account was quoting a speech he was giving in the United States to an audience of Lebanese expats ($10 says they’re voting for Trump in 49 days). In that speech, Bassil dropped the following:

The speech excerpts translate to:

  • I support giving Lebanese women who marry foreigners the right to pass on their nationality to their children but our constitution and societal fabrics don’t allow to give the Lebanese nationality to 400,000 Palestinians.
  • I support the law that allows Lebanese women to pass on their nationality to their children, with the exception of Syrians and Palestinians to maintain our land.

Of course, it has probably escaped Bassil in that moment that St. Maroun, after whom his sect was named, was Syrian and Jesus, after whom he prays, was Palestinian, but that’s besides the point. Certainly, however, Bassil wouldn’t have had a problem if those Syrians and Palestinians weren’t mostly Muslim. I wonder, how different would his statement have been had those refugees been mostly Christian like him? I can imagine him now, à la Oprah, distributing nationalities left and right: YOU ARE LEBANESE, YOU ARE LEBANESE, YOU AAAAAALL ARE LEBANESE!

Context to Bassil’s tweets, however, remains important. His statements do not come from void. They emanate from a public sentiment that has only managed to gain popularity over the past few years with around 2 million Syrians seeking refuge in Lebanon. Of course, as is the case with Lebanon’s statistics, numbers do not exist. But it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that Bassil’s speech is not at odds with what the prevalent majority of Christians believes to be true, and a sizable portion of Lebanon’s Muslim community.

Yet again, the sentiment in the aforementioned denominations arise from their incessant need for self-sectarian preservation and are devoid from any national affinity towards a more global Lebanese state. Either way, I digress.

The uproar towards Bassil’s statements has been deafening. Human Rights Watch issued a statement whereby they found what he said to be abhorrent, in contradiction to the international treaties that Lebanon has signed in regards to women rights, and shameful to come from the minister of foreign affairs who is, whether we like it or not, the face of Lebanon to the world. Sorry #LiveLoveBeirut, you’re not it.

A slew of tweets and Facebook posts criticizing Bassil were also widely circulated, of which the satirical Facebook page Adeela led the forefront with a bunch of posts addressing Bassil’s tweets:

Lebanese blogger Mahmoud Ghazayel had a tweet (now deleted) in which he corrected Bassil’s statement to this:

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So far so good, right? Except this didn’t remain as just a manifestation of Lebanese online degrees of freedom because before you knew it, the situation – thanks to massive reports by Bassil’s online henchmen – became as follows:

Every single post that criticized Bassil about his racist tweets was removed because of Facebook reports, while the social media platform never bothered to check for the background upon which those reports were being filed in the first place, or the statements being criticized to begin with.

As a result, if you try and say something negative about Bassil’s statements, thousands will end up putting you in Facebook jail for at least 24 hours because you somehow violated the terms of being on that website, by simply expressing an opinion.

Maybe it’s fear of  exposing how ridiculous Bassil’s proposition – even if echoed by many – is. Maybe it’s wanting to keep his image pristine in their eyes, albeit it being irrevocably damaged in the minds of many others. Maybe it’s them wanting to keep a semblance of pride.

What Bassil’s goons seem to fail to grasp is that with every post they manage to bring down, ten more will spring up in their place. As it is their right to believe and want to defend what Bassil said, it is the right of every other Lebanese who categorically and irrevocably disagrees to not only criticize but mock those statements until kingdom come, whether they like it or not.

As the stench of garbage and filth overtakes their nares in every cubic meter of air in Beirut, as they spend countless hours without electricity, as they pray for the heavens for internet to be fast enough to load the images in this post, as they debate whether to flush or not because water is scarce, let them have all of that pride and the politicians whose image they want to keep. Let them have their “holy” land, their “better-than-thou” attitude towards anyone and anything they deem lesser. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many Facebook reports are issued, common sense will prevail.

PS: Dear Facebook, re-assess yourself, why don’t you? 

Seven Sisters Beirut Bans Veiled Woman From Entering Because International Football Players Were There

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Pic via Daily Star.

It’s perfectly legal for any private institution in the country to pick the clientele it wants to admit, that’s a given. But that doesn’t mean that some practices should go by unchallenged or even accepted just because they are legal, such as Iris banning men under the age of 24 but allowing women, because who knows why?

The Seven Sisters Bar and Grill in Beirut reportedly barred entry (link) for a couple with a veiled woman despite being told, before coming to the place, that they would be allowed to sit at the bar if they arrived between certain hours, which the couple had done.

While trying to negotiate their way into the place, the couple was surprised to see many unveiled women enter without even having their names checked on a reservation list. A recording, according to the Daily Star, saw the Seven Sisters Beirut establishment say: “We’re not allowing anyone with hijab tonight because it’s a special night.”

Find a link to the recording here

The special night they were referring to was a football-themed gathering whereby international football players who were coming to Lebanon for a charity game against Lebanese players were meeting fans for photographs and autographs, among other things.

It seems the Seven Sisters Beirut establishment didn’t want those football players from being exposed to any culture that they probably deem “not fit” for the reputation they want to perpetuate about the country. You know, the reputation where everything everyone does in Lebanon is party and drink and enjoy this joie de vivre everyone believes is what makes Lebanese special.

Guess again.

This kind of discriminatory behavior is appalling  and, quite honestly, will stop people like me – the non-veiled clientele that you want to bring into your establishment – from ever stepping foot there again. You should be ashamed of wanting to hide away essential and predominant figures of Lebanese society in order to paint a fake image for a football player who couldn’t remotely care.

But isn’t this how we do business in this country? We perpetuate fake-ness and masquerade it as authenticity in the belief that the “Western” way is the way to go, essentially annihilating everything about this country that makes it  unique, starting with banning veiled Lebanese women entry to certain restaurants just because “they don’t fit.”

It doesn’t matter if the place served alcohol or pork or any other food that Muslims tend to avoid. The fact that that couple was there willingly meant they were okay with being exposed to whatever it is Seven Sisters offered, and were doing so whole-heartedly. This kind of behavior from the Seven Sisters establishment only serves to further widen the divide between the Lebanon they want to convey and the Lebanon that actually is, one veiled woman being stopped at the door at a time.

So on the night when Luis Figo, Michel Salgado, Carlos Puyol and Roberto Carlos were being pampered left and right by a bar and grill in the heart of Beirut, some Lebanese who may have wanted to see them were falling victims to Islamophobia and prejudice in the heart of a country where Islam is not an anomaly.

Shame on Seven Sister Beirut’s establishment for such derogatory measures. The sad part is they probably couldn’t care less.

The hardships facing veiled women in this country are not only exclusive to being banned from entering certain restaurants. It’s perpetuated to work opportunities whereby some companies would outright refuse applicants just because they’re veiled, to various other aspects of daily Lebanese life that many of us take for granted, which is unfortunate as well as surprising in a country where being veiled isn’t exactly rare. Being non-veiled is beginning to be turned into a privilege. With each passing day, the spectrum of freedom allowed to Lebanese is shrinking.

Lebanese MP Elie Marouni Blames Lebanese Women For Getting Raped

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She was asking for it is the excuse of every sexual predator out there to justify his insatiable thirst in violating the body of a woman who was not asking for it.

She was wearing a skirt too tight or too short. Her blouse was too revealing. She was flirting. Anything a woman does that can be interpreted in that rapist’s brain as an advance is considered as her “asking for it” without her being as such at all.

Now how about that mentality perpetuating in the mind of yet another misogynistic Lebanese who not only  has a wide platform to speak from, but also has the job to make sure women are a protected entity in society by legislating the laws for that purpose.

Zahle Kataeb MP Elie Marouni decided that standing up for women rights was not something on his agenda nor was it something he’s probably willing to entertain. Keep in mind, this man is responsible for making sure women are protected when they are raped, when they’re victims of domestic violence, just to name a few.

In a recent press conference (link), Marouni was not a fan of allowing Lebanese women to grant their nationality to their children. Why? Because we have a lot of Palestinians and Syrians (also known as very scary Muslims) who would “change the country’s demographics.”

That wasn’t the best part, however. When asked about the Lebanese penal code law that stipulates that a rapist can marry his victim whereby absolving him of his crime. His reply was as follows: “In some instances, one has to wonder about the woman that pushes a man to rape her. Thank you!”

He was thankful for the applause he got. Some of that applause was probably out of women as well for that horrifying statement. Yes, because it’s that unfathomable for Marouni apparently that a man should probably keep it in his pants until the woman “pushing” him says yes.

A feminist activist rose up to the occasion on the spot and chastised him for his statement, saying she was “ashamed” to have someone like him represent her in parliament. Marouni was then “offended” that she was ashamed.

“If only that woman whose name I don’t know and I don’t want to know who objected in such an offensive way had waited until the end of the conference to see how many women had taken their picture with me.”

Yes, because people posing for pictures with you is exactly the standard by which one judge’s your sexism and misogyny. That sad moment when a Lebanese MP is more taken aback by the fact that someone challenged his backward dogma than by the fact he thinks it’s okay in some cases for men to rape women in 2016.

Dear Mr. Marouni, I’m also ashamed to have you as a Lebanese MP, legislating (or not) on my behalf in any function, being a person who does not understand that people’s sanctity is holy. Also, being ashamed at you is not “offending” you. It’s probably the most courteous thing one could tell you at such a statement given the circumstances.

Why don’t you think about your female relatives for once? Put yourself in their shoes if only for a moment to see how despicable it is for their brother, their son, etc.. to say that them being violated can sometimes be justified or that they can sometimes be blamed for having a man force himself on them.

Mr. Marouni, this is the discourse in which you are taking away a woman’s right to her own body away from her, like almost every other right in this God forsaken country that has been taken away from those same women you believe can be sometimes blamed for being raped.

I fail to see how anyone such as you can be trusted to come up and defend laws that defend every single Lebanese person in any aspect. Granted, you are doing none of that, but in the hypothetical scenario that you might, how am I supposed not to be ashamed that the laws of my country are being ratified by men with such a mentality?

But please, by all means, keep on thinking women posing for pictures with you is enough justification for you thinking they’re open season.