Fighting for Gender Equality in Lebanon & What Remains to be Done

These are some key takeaways from Lebanon’s civil society parallel report for Beijing +25 Conference. Where are we falling short, what insights can propel us forward, and what remains to be done?

Labor & Representation

  • Lebanon holds one of the lowest rates of gender equality in political representation and leadership. 
  • Factors limiting the engagement of women in the political field are prevalent at the financial, legal, and social levels
  • Laws, regulations, and gender and social norms are main barriers for women in the labor force, more specifically married women. These norms consider unpaid work (women spending averagely 60 hrs/week) for women their only responsibility hindering their entry into the workforce. 
  • As of 2018’s parliamentary elections, the share of women elected only rose from 3.1% to 4.7%. The intersection of formal and informal institutions of power sharing created undefeatable obstacles to women’s political representation.

Legality & Culture

  • Lebanon has enacted the fewest changes to discriminatory laws over personal status and citizenship.
  • Although statistics show progress and equality, traditional stereotyping and the age-old patriarchal culture still prevents some girls from participating in the education system particularly since free compulsory education has not yet been imposed by the government of Lebanon.
  • Lebanon has not established a national minimum age for marriage and completely delegates this responsibility to religious authorities, all religious sects allow marriage for girls under the age of 18 if the girl’s guardian gives consent.
  • Minimum changes in employment and violence/harassment laws have taken place; and the changes hold loopholes within them that further discriminate against women.
  • Three legislative proposals on child marriage have been discussed by the Parliament; the matter is still in custody of the Parliament.
  • Laws toward honor crimes have been proposed for amendment, yet not enacted. 
  • Amendments on laws on adultery and sexual activity, still discriminate against women.
  • Evidence suggests that the Syrian refugee crisis has contributed to an increase in child marriage and was adopted as a negative coping strategy among displaced Syrian families residing in Lebanon.
  • Refugees face particular obstacles in accessing protection of the Domestic Violence Law. Women and girls exposed to violence are not able to seek help from the Internal Security Forces if they are illegal residents or residents in camps
  • Lebanese legal system is now in a state of contradiction: on the one hand, there is a law criminalizing human trafficking, but on the other hand, there are administrative decrees and regulations that open the doors to it.
  • Lebanese media echoes the mainstream patriarchal societal discourse and reinforces existing stereotypes.
  • There are no specific laws protecting people from hate crimes or discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status. There is no specific legal protection or recognition of transgender women or men.
  • The Lebanese law does not provide or mainstream any gender-related matter within the prison.

Health

  • Lebanon was able to achieve maternal mortality rates and infant’s under-five mortality rates below those called for by sustainable development goals by 2030.
  • However, marital status and socioeconomic background are important factors in determining women’s access to health services.
  • Easy and affordable access to contraception especially for women living in rural areas, youth and vulnerable groups is still absent.
  • Many persons with disabilities are left with unmet needs, which is detrimental to their physical and mental wellbeing.
  • The Lebanese State fails to provide financial assistance and other support services to families of children with disabilities.

SOLUTIONS REQUIRED

  • Roadmap for public institutions to initiate a transformative process towards mainstreaming gender in its strategies, policies, and plan, and across services provided:
    • Institute gender mainstreaming committees at the policy level within public institutions.
    • Reduce the gender-gap related to gender roles and gender-based division of labor.
    • Develop gender-responsive process in all services and projects targeting all citizens
  • To build on the cracks in the political structure and to sustain women’s voice and agency numerous positive measures should be taken:
    • Structural reforms and laws that protect against all forms of violence 
    • National strategy to advance women in politics
    • Change in social norms, working on gender at the collective level.
    • A need for capitalization of experiences and for enhancing the coordination and synergies among women activists in Lebanon
  • The main challenge for the successful implementation of the 1325 NAP lies in the funding, along with the absence of coordination mechanisms and identification of tasks and roles among the different governmental institutions.

To maintain our hope and commitment to these fights, let us recognize that on the front of marches and discussion groups, sit-ins and roadblocks, women have been a key driving force behind the movement of the revolution. Changes are made within many spaces and using many different tools. For example, the contribution of Lebanese rural women to the development process is rather underestimated and undervalued as a result of cultural, legislative, social, economic and regional policy biases. We as women must continue to amplify and support one another across socio-economic, geographically, racial, and ethnic lines. 

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