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.

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Lebanese Policeman Physically Assaults a Woman For Stopping at a Red Light & Ends Up Innocent Anyway

The series of horrifying violations to our right as people from those who are in power in this wonderful country continues.

We’ve all been driving or in cars and suddenly find ourselves boxed in by a convoy for some politician who decides that his right of passage, as are the rest of his rights, more important than yours; who decides that your car and safety are irrelevant and who has no problem in killing you to make sure he gets his way, literally.

The mode of management for these convoys is to avoid them. You see those dark, tinted SUVs approaching and you run the opposite way. They are barbaric, lawless people who hold the rule of law in their hands: there’s nothing you can do just deal with it.

In fact, even the new driving law will NOT be applied to these convoys. Why? Because the government won’t apply a law on itself, but will screw you over again and again for your money so they can play house, not legislate, not vote for a president, not run the country and still take away your rights whenever they can.

Lawyer Rania Ghaith was stuck at a red light on Monday in front of one of those convoys at the Qantari intersection that leads up to Hamra. The convoy in question behind her was for our minister of internal affairs Mr. Nouhad el Machnouk.

 

The policeman at the intersection was telling Rania to run the red light and break the law so the convoy can pass. She stood her own and waited. When the light turned green, she let the convoy pass and would have been on her way hadn’t that policeman, who was NOT a traffic policeman and as such had no place to regulate traffic, pulled her over.

What happened next was not him simply writing her a ticket.

It was him pulling Rania out of her car, by her hair, and assaulting her physically in the middle of the street.

Unfortunately no one filmed the incidence but there were plenty of eyewitnesses. The physician’s report of Rania’s condition immediately following the incident also confirmed that she was the victim of a physical assault.

The ironic part is that the convoy was just a decoy.

This isn’t the full story, sadly.

Rania filed a lawsuit against the officer in question immediately, and the preliminary trial was today. In that trial, the overseeing judge in Military Court Hani Al-Hajjar did not, according to MTV:

  1. Ask for the physician’s report on Rania’s condition,
  2. Did not call for eyewitness testimony,
  3. Did not let Rania Ghaith testify.

As such, the judge decided that the man was innocent and could be released. He did not pay any bail, and the Lebanese Syndicate of Lawyers has not taken any steps in trying to defend the rights of one of their own.

 

Of course, this shouldn’t come as a shock in a country of no law, misogyny, and in the presence of people who think they are always above the law and who have no problem in making sure you know it at every single second of every day.

Not only was that policeman breaking the law by operating at that intersection, he also violated the law by assaulting a Lebanese citizen whose only fault was standing at a red light, respecting her country’s law at a time when he didn’t want that.

That policeman, whose name we unfortunately don’t know, violated Rania as a Lebanese, as a woman, as a citizen who respects the law, as a simple human being who should NOT be assaulted because the policeman had a testosterone rush because a woman defied him. And what’s worse, Lebanon’s military court – the same one that found Michel Samaha not *that* guilty – has now declared him innocent.

How long should Lebanese citizens, women and men, be the victims of the whims of policemen who know they have no reason to break our rights, our bones, our spine because they will get away with it anyway? How much proof do we need to get rid our streets of such elements that only serve to endanger us? What would have happened had that policeman been a bit angrier? Would he have shot Rania because she didn’t break a red light?

Does anyone even hear how silly it is to have a headline that goes: Policeman assaults woman because she stopped at a red light?

Let me take this a step further: how horrifying is it that this policeman not only assaulted that woman for not breaking the law, but has been declared innocent and is back on the streets, ready to attack other women, and other people on a whim?

Mr. Nouhad el Machnouk: You should not accept such a thing to pass by unnoticed. Your convoys, and those of every single politician in this country, are not more important than our well-being, than rights, our existence. You should not accept for Rania Ghaith to become yet another victim of abuse by those who are above the law, and who have the political backing to spit in her face during her trial: “If I were in my friend’s place, I would’ve torn you to pieces.”

This is not a country, this is a jungle.

Rania Ghaith, I hope you get your justice sooner rather than later.

Why Rima Karaki Shutting Up The Islamist Hani Al Siba’i Is Super Important To Middle Eastern Women Rights

The video of Rima Karaki shutting up Hani Al-Siba’i couldn’t come at a more appropriate time for the region. Its rise in popularity happens to take place one day before International Women’s Day.

He is an Egyptian Islamist who is now residing in London after fleeing Egypt where he faces charges for the support of Islamists. He is BFF’s with Al Zarqawi and thinks Bin Laden is to be respected. He’s a pile or hypocrisy: someone who wants to implement the sharia’h… but lives in London. He’s a defense lawyer… but can’t handle an argument.

Out of all people that interviewed him over the times, Lebanese TV presenter Rima Karaki drew the thickest line. She wore a veil out of respect to his presence (even if through satellite from London), and he ended up demanding she shut up for trying to direct the conversation in a manner suitable for her TV show.

She did the opposite and cut him off right there on air, stopping him from spewing even more hate and disrespect to her and, indirectly, to Middle Eastern and Arab women everywhere.

Hani Al Siba’i is a representation of the sheikhs roaming our lands who think everyone should abide by the rules they have in mind, who think they have the right to shut up a woman just because she dared speak up and who have the audacity to not only request it, but shout it on platforms that always give them a megaphone.

In those 2 minutes, Rima Karaki did something that many women in the region are too afraid to do: stand up to a bully who happens to be protected by religious establishments and fear that allow him to thrive.

Rima Karaki - 1

When Al Siba’i tried to intimidate her, she stood her ground and still tried to take the harness of the interview away from his monologue.

Rima Karaki - 2

Instead, she told Al Siba’i something that probably no other woman he ever encountered has ever told him: she would be the one taking the decision.

Rima Karaki - 3

So because this was all too weird and foreign to him, Al Siba’i reverted to what he knows best and told Rima to shut up.

Rima Karaki - 6

So while trying to be respectful, Rima Karaki answered back. I’m sure he wasn’t used to getting that thrown in his face… ever.

Rima Karaki - 5

So naturally, he reverted to full blown sexism and disrespect to bring Rima down. She didn’t budge. She cut his mic off and then his feed.

In those 2 minutes, Rima Karaki did what every single person, let alone women, should do to people like Al Siba’i: cut them off. I couldn’t not find myself rooting for her. There’s nothing sweeter and more beautiful seeing a woman standing up to someone like him in that manner, someone who hates women and contributes every single day to their detriment.

If I were her, I would have thrown away the veil too, just as the Egyptian anchor did a couple of years ago (link).

Ironically, in those 2 minutes NewTV produced the best TV in their history. This is the full video:

On March 8th, 2015 this is the view across the Middle East and Arab world:

  • Women in Lebanon are not allowed to pass on their citizenship to their children. They are not protected by a decent law against domestic abuse.
  • Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to have authority over their own self; their male relatives do. They cannot go anywhere without male chaperones. They are not allowed to run for any government body that is allowed to legislate. They are not allowed to drive. They aren’t allowed to go out without wearing appropriate religious attire.
  • Women in Jordan are still the victims of rampant domestic violence and honor killings.
  • Women in the U.A.E. can face jail time if they are ever caught engaging in pre-marital sex, or drinking.
  • Women in Egypt are still the victims of female circumcision, a barbaric practice whose sole purpose is to decrease their sexual drive.
  • Women in Kuwait and Qatar cannot pass their citizenships to their children. They’ve also only recently, and very limitedly, started to try and become more engaged in the political life of their country.
  • Women in Iraq are being forced, in some parts of the country, to wear head scarves and traditional abayas to cover up. Their political presence only stems from the quota required to be filled by women according to law there.

We live in the region with the world’s highest gender gap.

Gender Gap World

And what is common between all those countries is that the value of women is always contingent upon the integrity of their hymen, their worth relative to the purity of their bodies, their purpose in life is to breed and procreate, but rarely produce, and never, ever, stand up to religious authority without facing repercussions.

Until today.

If there’s anything to empower Arab and Middle Eastern women this year around, it’s this. It’s standing up to those who contribute to those women not having rights, who bring them down every time they try to stand up to themselves, who think that “woman” is an insult, who think women should shut up when a man is speaking and who are given a religious cloak to make all their poison holy.