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. 

Where Women Stand in Lebanon – Post Explosion & In an Ongoing Pandemic

Even before the current crises originating from the explosion and the pandemic, Lebanon was not doing well in terms of women’s rights and equality. In 2020, the country ranked 145th out of a total of 153 countries in overall gender disparities and 12th out of 16 Arab countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. Lebanon ranked 136th out of 153 countries in economic participation and opportunity as well as 149th out of 153 countries in political empowerment. Lebanon consistently ranked low in female participation. 

Women struggle in the workforce due to outdated stereotypes and misogynist cultures that question women’s intellect and competency. They are the first to be fired and the last to be rehired. Women often don’t join the formal economy as a result of discrimination and instead create their own informal economy by making and selling their own items. Historically, women will do whatever it takes to care for their children. Due to Covid-19 and the explosion, and the insecurity in their aftermath, many children are out of school and at home during the day leaving women to struggle to take care of their children, the house, and their professional duties. Schools gave women a chance to leave the house and do their work and now women must stay home either to help the children with online school or stay with them if their school was canceled.

In Lebanese political structures, women are severely under-represented and those that are in the system have become increasingly frustrated with the rampant corruption and sectarian power plays that have debilitated Lebanon for decades. The last government had 30% female representation with 6 women as ministers, yet they were unaware of what women needed. Recently, they refused to include sanitary pads as a subsidized product on a list of imports. What may seem like a small example is actually an indicator of a perpetuation and increase of what people call “period poverty,” a small pillar of a wide foundation built to keep women in insecurity.

As the Covid-19 pandemic progressed, many women found themselves caring for the sick at home or in the hospitals, making them more exposed to the virus. The nursing sector in Lebanon consists of 79.52% female from the Order of Nurses. These nurses face trauma from the blast. As the economy has worsened, nurses are paid less and expected to work longer hours. This gendered economic immobility prevents some young girls from gaining access to mental health resources as they have no access to an income. Between mid-March and June of 2020, over 300 calls were made to the National Emotional Support and Suicide Prevention Helpline, 50% of which were women and 16% of whom were actively contemplating suicide. Many women report feeling socially isolated and are experiencing major stress in regards to trauma, loss, family discord, relationship problems, and financial difficulties. 

During times of crisis, girls are the first to be pulled out of school and the last to return. Many girls are expected to do additional labor at home and in poorer households, girls are denied education altogether. With Covid-19 and school being canceled, children have lost a year of education and social interaction. We don’t know how the long-term effects of social isolation will impact young people, but we can anticipate that the effects will have long term ramifications and will require explicit attention. 

Violence against women increases during times of insecurity, and the pandemic is no exception. The numbers of calls received by the NGO hotlines in March 2020 was double that recorded in the same period of 2019. KAFA, which means ‘Enough’ in Arabic, reports that the number of calls that received has increased by 4.5 times between March and June of 2020 from 299 to 1371 calls. New calls increased three-fold from 75 to 236 between that time period. ABAAD, meaning dimensions in Arabic, is a Resource Centre for Gender Equality that found that domestic violence cases were up 20% since March 2020. The pandemic resulted in exacerbating pre-existing cases of intimate partner violence as well as creating new cases. For women and girls, being quarantined safely is a luxury.

LGBTQ populations, female migrant domestic workers, refugees, and other groups were already vulnerable before the pandemic. When Lebanon got rid of the US Dollar, they prevented female migrant domestic workers from sending money to their families. They also cannot leave the house as their employer’s fear that they might get Covid and, with their employers at home, they are expected to work all day. Many domestic workers are abused sexually, physically, physiologically, and economically although it has also increased drastically due to the stress from the deteriorating economic climate and health risks. Due to the financial crisis, many employers have not paid their domestic workers or have left them on the streets outside the embassy as the employers refuse to pay their repatriation fees. The Embrace and the Internal Security Forces noted that during the first six months of 2020, 15% of suicides were committed by female foreign domestic workers as compared to 17% in all of 2019.

Discrimination against refugees has been rising as the narrative of refugees “taking Lebanese jobs” has been on the rise. Many refugees do not have a choice but to keep working in order to support their families. The UNHCR was able to provide emergency cash support to nearly 200,000 additional refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey who previously did not receive financial aid yet this is still not enough to keep the increasing refugee families from living well below the poverty line. ILO surveys found that the workforce has faced major layoffs with nearly 60% of respondents reporting that they had been permanently or temporarily laid-off; the majority of respondents were refugees. They are also blamed for spreading the virus as they were unable to stay home and unable to self-isolate for a majority of the pandemic. LGBTQ populations are forced to live in situations where their identities are negated or denied without the support of their communities and other outlets.

When the crises are over, the risks will not end for women. Life will be different in Lebanon going forward as the economy, politics, health, and infrastructure will all have been impacted. We need to be productive in mitigating risks for women and in making sure they are an active part of the recovery in leadership and decision-making roles. Our job is to ensure that women’s rights organizations and feminist activist have the tools and resources they need to advocate and act on behalf of women and girls. If women are once again left out of leadership roles in the response to the pandemic, the patriarchal consolidation of power in these areas will have devastating effects on women’s rights, equality, and autonomy. Women in Lebanon are an under-utilized asset. They are an economic force, and they are the country’s social safety net. Women are the ones who know who is in need, what they need, and how to get it to them. Centering women in the response will enable the country to recover better and to better withstand future shock. A Lebanon with women in the lead is better for everyone.

LGBTIQ Community in Times of Crisis in Lebanon & Syria

In a society where restrictive conceptions of masculinity and femininity pervade all aspects of one’s life, as most societies in our world today do, navigating queer identity can be a complex and emotionally challenging experience. Existing outside of the role one has been prescribed in their society is made particularly challenging within historically oppressive contexts. In a webinar hosted by the Gender, Justice, and Security Hub on January 26, 2021, entitled “LGBTIQ Community in Times of Crisis,” Charbel Maydaa, Becca Potton, Caroline Chayya, and Henri Myrttinen discussed their research on the impact of the Syrian Civil War and the Lebanese Revolution on LGBT people in Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey.  

Over the course of the webinar, the researchers gave two slideshow presentations, which highlighted the background and key findings of their research, showed two documentary films they had created, and held question-and-answer sessions so that attendees could inquire about the presentations and documentaries. The first presentation explained how the Lebanese Revolution was halted inorganically by the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing those who were calling for change from achieving their goals. The queer community played a large role in organizing protests, and during protests, many queer individuals found that those with whom they were protesting protected them and wanted to learn about their identities. However, they felt increasingly unsafe as more and more police officers infiltrated protests and began harassing individuals who they believed were not cisgender or heterosexual.

In Syria, the researchers found that queer individuals faced a great deal of violence at the hands of both state and nonstate actors. It was found that in Syria, there is a significant demand for individuals who are assigned male at birth to perform normative heterosexual masculinity. Often, at military personnel operating checkpoints gay and bisexual men, as well as transgender women, will be attacked for appearing “soft.” LGBT Syrians also face the threat of being kicked out of their homes and losing their inheritances if their families discover they are not heterosexual or cisgender.  Some Syrian families will also report queer family members to militias, endangering their physical safety.

An individual who was interviewed as a part of the second documentary that was shown commented that he felt he had a better opportunity to explore his sexuality in Turkey as a refugee than he did at home in Syria. An important element of his ability to discover himself, he mentioned, was the internet access he had in Turkey, which he used to engage with others in discussions of sexuality and queer identity. Online spaces are a valuable resource for people who are discovering or trying to discover their sexuality or gender identity, as they provide access to information about queer identity and connection with individuals who are having similar experiences with gender and sexuality.  

For young people in particular, web resources are highly practical because one does not need physical transportation to access a community or information.  Recently, the Arab Institute for Women launched a web platform to support LGBTQ youth in Lebanon and the Arab world, called Shabaket el Meem.  This platform, which can be reached at the web address www.shabaketelmeem.com, creates spaces for young people who are learning about and growing into their sexual orientations and gender identities to learn terminology they may not yet be familiar with, ask questions about queer identity, share personal experiences, and learn about topics of gender and sexuality from both podcasts and animated videos. With the use of online queer spaces such as Shabaket el Meem, young people throughout the Arab region can learn about the LGBT community and their place in it without the stigma and negativity that might accompany such discussions in other contexts.

The documentary films that were showcased in the webinar brought up the significance of community and the presence of elders in queer spaces as a demonstration that one can exist truthfully throughout their life regardless of their environment.  In discussing this, one documentary subject powerfully stated, “it is nice to know they exist here.” In the second documentary, another subject brought up the exploitation of LGBT individuals in the job market, mentioning that LGBT people face sexual exploitation from superiors and are often forced to work more hours and receive lower pay than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts.

The event closed with the researchers reiterating their findings during a final Q&A session. They mentioned concerns that the discussion of war as it relates to gender rarely includes conversations or discussions of sexuality or gender identity, as LGBT people face risks, violence, and vulnerability that others do not experience. They also noted that it is important to pay attention to seemingly smaller issues that affect the queer community, as daily microaggressions, homophobia, and transphobia have a profound negative effect on the mental health of LGBT people. To the dismay of the researchers, while there is an academic interest in the issues that face the queer community, policies are not being implemented to protect queer people and little is being done on the ground.  Above all, and despite the numerous barriers in place for people of diverse sexualities and genders, the researchers stressed that the strength and resilience of the queer community be highlighted, as the community has worked tirelessly to bring about change throughout the Arab world.

Support & Resources for Women in Lebanon

Many have asked us to refer them to women-focused and women-led initiatives in Lebanon for support. Here’s our list – we’re adding to it every day!

First – some context. Lebanon wasn’t doing very well before the explosion. Since October 2019, the country has undergone massive upheaval – starting with public protests and government restructure, then an economic crisis followed by COVID-19. This has proven to be a toxic combination for the country. The explosion on 4 August has now turned an already serious situation into a humanitarian disaster.

Before the blast, the Lebanese Lira had lost approximately 80% of its value. On the black market, rates of exchange have risen to 8,000 LL for 1 USD – before COVID and the financial crisis, rates were locked at 1,500 LL = 1 USD. Unemployment rates before the explosion reached nearly 32% for Lebanese, and are more for non-Lebanese migrant and refugee workers. COVID-19 cases are on the rise, resulting in a two-week enforced lockdown period that began shortly before the blast.  For approximately 9 necessary commodities, prices have jumped a minimum of 20% (for some, it’s almost 60%).

Given this dire situation, The Arab Institute for Women has put together a list of women/LGBT/queer/refugee/migrant-led and -focused initiatives, researchers, and journalists in Beirut for you to follow, fund, and support. 

Our advocacy is focused on working with partners to fill gaps in humanitarian aid. Priorities for women include (but are not limited to): 

  • Economic support packages for women-headed households (e.g. temporary foodstuffs, towels, soap, toilet paper)
  • Supplies for mothers, especially new mothers: baby formula, baby food, diapers, baby wipes, baby shampoo, and baby clothes
  • Hygiene kits and menstrual products

Online Resources

Journalists

Researchers

  • Aya Majzoub (@Aya_Majzoub) – Lebanon and Bahrain Researcher HRW
  • Maha Yahya Director of Carnegie Middle East (@mahamyahya)
  • Cilina Nasser (Human Rights researcher – @CilinaNasser)
  • Kim Ghattas (@KimGhattas) – non-resident Fellow at Carnegie Endowment
  • Abir Ghattas (AbirGhattas) – Human Rights Watch
  • Tala Harb (@TalaHarb_) – RCCA at Amnesty International
  • Léa Yammine (@lea_yam) – Deputy Director Lebanon Support
  • Marie-Noëlle AbiYaghi (@mnabiyaghi) – Director of Lebanon Support
  • Mariam Younes (@mayouns1) – Regional Director Rosa-Luxembourg-Stiftung Beirut Office, Research Fellow Lebanon Support

Activists

Feminist Organizations

Funding Campaigns

Lebanon: From Tears to Rage

By Lina AbiRafeh

Has it already been four days? I haven’t processed this yet, haven’t accepted the reality of our disaster, haven’t digested this foul meal we’ve been force-fed by our so-called leadership. It all makes me sick.

Leadership is not about power, position, or politics. It is about modeling the kind of behavior that inspires others, it is about galvanizing the collective toward a common goal. It is about doing the Right Thing.

When I see pictures of people cleaning their own streets I think our politicians do not deserve us. They are not leaders. They are cowards.

Please show me a politician with a broom – perhaps I’ve missed those pictures?!

For five minutes I forget what has happened. And then I relieve the nightmare. Refresh my Twitter feed for more more more. But – I am not there. I could have been there. Should have been there. Should be there. Should go there. I am an emergency person after all. And this is our very own emergency.

In 2002, when I told my parents that I was moving to Afghanistan, my mother said: Why do you want to work in someone else’s war zone when you have your own war zones?!

It took me 13 years to move to one of my warzones (the other is Palestine – and that’s a whole other tragedy). I spent four years in Beirut. Did I do anything useful? Am I doing anything useful now?

The curse of the diaspora is pain plus paralysis. We hurt. But we’re impotent. Money is all we can do. We do it – but then what? It’s never enough

Because this was senseless. Stupid. Preventable. The government murdered its own people. And we can’t blame anyone else this time.

Today Lebanon is shattered glass, bloody streets, and broken hearts. And righteous rage.

Dear World, I am Lebanon

By Natalie Haboush Khoury

Dear World: 

I am Lebanon. I am writing to portray the truth. This is not a cry for help…..I have tried that too many times and it seems that with each request, I am devastated and let down even more. I don’t consider myself to have any true haters, only envious followers. I was once told that with success and popularity comes great heartbreak and betrayal. Whoever told me that was a wise, wise person. I was never considered a third world, uncivilized country. My children are and have always been the most successful, the most educated and the most intellectual of humankind. They succeed in whatever discipline they pursue. They make a name for themselves wherever they go. Though I had created the perfect environment for them, the satisfaction was short lived. 

Being the selfless country that I am, I taught my children to  welcome all individuals who didn’t have a home; refugees who were forced out of their country. I taught my children to be social and friendly. Those same individuals that we welcomed with open arms, ripped us to shreds. Add to that the leaders of the world who befriended me early on, only to discover that my friendship was to serve their own self interests. Yes, this is the harsh reality of life, but being the naive Lebanon that I am, I was oblivious to this fact and truly believed that the purpose of friendships were to empower one another and share times of success and grief together. Very quickly did I realize that my own children would abandon me and my children’s children would betray me…a spiraling effect, leading me to where I am today. 

Broken. Alone. Devastated. Starving. Lifeless. 

Most have left me. All have betrayed me. 

I am unable to provide food, shelter, love, culture, life. They have turned me into a hopeless failure. They have clipped my wings. I tried for so long to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild….brush my shoulders off and stand back up, only to be knocked down even harder each time. They have now left me completely paralyzed. 

Do you want to know the worst part? It is my own children that did this to me. Despite my attempts to teach them to remain true to themselves. Despite my attempts to raise them as leaders, leaders who believe in themselves and do unto others as they would have done unto them. Despite my attempts to carve the true values of Lebanon within their hearts. Despite these attempts and many more, they gave in. They gave in to greed. They gave in to evil. They gave in to disgrace. They gave in to dishonor. 

My children allowed the selflessness that Lebanese were known for to be replaced with the world’s selfishness. My children allowed Lebanese intellectualism to be replaced with egoism. My children allowed Lebanese culture to be replaced with the haters’ barbarism. My children sold me. And, for what? What did they receive in return? They received poverty, a lack of infrastructure, an economic collapse, a loss of morale, the devastation of friendships, the lack of a future for their children, the loss of Lebanese life. So true it is that one does not realize what he has until it’s gone. I now hear my children screaming. I hear the voices of regret. I see them trying to make their way back to me. And, of course, being the Lebanon that I am, I will take them back with open arms. I will embrace them with love and compassion. But, boy do we have a long road ahead of us. 

This time is different from all the other times. This time I cannot do it alone. This time I need ALL of my children, regardless of religion, race and economic status. I need them all to come together; to remember who we as Lebanese are: to remember what made Lebanon in the first place. I need them to remember why the world envied (and continues to envy) this country and its people. But, in doing so, I need them to forgive, but not forget. Because we as Lebanese forgive, but we also tend to forget too easily. We as Lebanese fight. We as Lebanese accept. We as Lebanese endure. We have a lot of enduring to do. We will need to survive starvation. We will need to grieve the loss of our loved ones. We will need to face our fears of being alone, of being poor, of being powerless. We can survive and we can overcome. We will survive and we will overcome and once this is all a part of our history, we truly will show the world that, yes, we are the greatest. But, in true Lebanese form, we will welcome all with open arms. The difference this time around however, will be that we will welcome our guests as guests and provide them with the best Lebanese experience, but that is exactly what they will be—guests. We are no longer accepting anyone into our family. Our family is just the right size and if we come together, we are all we need. 

All my love, 

Beirut

Intersectional Feminism, Covid-19 & Revolution

As the Covid-19 crisis continues to shine light through the deep cracks of inequality and violence built into our neo-liberal, capitalist global structure, we must use an intersectional feminist approach in our analysis, organizing, and policy. Intersectional Feminist Foreign Policy (IFFP) hosted a webinar this topic with Lina Abou Habib, Senior Policy Fellow at Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs and Strategic MENA Advisor – Global Fund for Women, from Beirut. Lina made one thing very clear throughout the talk: Covid-19 is not the ‘great equalizer’ as some are suggesting. Instead, we should be asking who is being most affected and which populations are most vulnerable to a global health crisis. On the opposite end, who is able to resist the shock? 

She spoke on Lebanon specifically, a context where the pandemic rode in on the coat tails of a full-fledged revolution – one grounded in feminist demands. The moment is unprecedented. People are bankrupt and are being asked to stay home in poverty without any economic relief. Simultaneously, the regime is gaining control in a moment where people have been forced inside, unable to continue protesting and carrying the momentum of a months long revolution. We cannot allow the state (the ‘oligarchy/regime/men in suits’ as Lina referred to them) to legitimize its role as ‘protector’ while they ‘pilfer’ the coffer.’ While they falsely claim they are responding to demands of the revolution despite perpetuating a culture of nepotism and corruption. 

Daily laborers face horrendous fines for breaking lockdown despite being unable to provide for themselves and their families otherwise and policies lack gendered dimensions. Women, domestic workers, and members of the queer community all face abuse at home. Domestic workers who basically already live under lockdown are now on call 24/7 and unable to escape abuse, all while being left out of response plans. Women are being denied visitation rights in child custody cases. Refugees are vulnerable – with the first positive case of Covid-19 being reported from a refugee camp in Lebanon this week. The lack of reliable internet makes education and organizing difficult from home. People are fearing for their lives, with no support from the regime they’ve been protesting for months.

Lina reminds us that the consequences of the pandemic will not end with the virus. We must track and advocate based on how people (especially those already on the periphery) will be positioned in the long-term after the short-term responses to Covid-19 run their course. The continuation of problematic politics in Lebanon especially has shown us why the revolution must continue. As Lina said when closing out the meeting, feminists across the globe are all talking about the same issues right now and what we need is a massive mobilization across feminist organizations. Across borders. Let us take this opportunity to reach out to one another and keep raising a feminist political consciousness.

Women in the Lebanese Uprising – There is no going back!

The protest in Lebanon have been going on for over a hundred days, and they have been marked by high female representation from women of various backgrounds and profiles. All over the country, women stand out by taking on multiple roles, by organizing discussions, leading marches, cooking, cleaning the squares, building human shields to de-escalate tensions, analyzing the laws to reform the current system and a multiplicity of other actions. Since the interview was conducted the government stated that it would continue working with the parliament and the civil society to improve women’s rights, their role in public and political life and fight against all forms of discrimination against women. In line with the national strategy for women in Lebanon adopted in June 2012, the concerned ministries should support this work within the current laws and regulation. Without specifying any measures, this statement means women cannot rest and must keep on fighting.  

Women can no longer be considered second-class citizen and a non-priority by the government. Even if it was clear before the protests, in the past four months women have demonstrated that they have the skills and the strength to bring the change they want to see happen not only as women but also for the country as a whole. They have nothing to lose, rather everything to win, and this uprising has shown their solidarity across the country to change the status quo. It is unlikely that they will settle for less than what they have been asking for, for years and all along the uprising. A change has already happened, it cannot be unseen and will not be forgotten.

A discussion with Jumanah Zabaneh, January 30, 2020

About Jumanah Zabaneh: she co-authored the UN-Women report “Understanding the Role of Women and Feminist Actors in Lebanon’s 2019 Protests” published on the 13 December 2019. She took care of the data collection, by gathering testimonies from women all around the country and on-ground observations. 

The protests have been going on for more than 100 days in Lebanon, how has the situation evolved in general and in terms of women’s participation since the report was published mid-December?

I think that the style of the protest has changed: we see fewer mass demonstrations which used to be the frequent at the beginning of the protests. Women were participating in high numbers in those types of protests, in our paper we talk about 50%, but at certain gatherings and demonstrations there were more than 50% women participating, specifically during women’s and feminist marches.

Now we see more clashes between protesters and the security forces. As soon as the protests become violent, we’re seeing a withdrawal of women from the front lines, or in some instances, women formed a buffer to prevent violence. From what we’ve seen, there have been a few exceptional cases of women confronting and taking part in the times of clashes. This reinforces our theory that women favour peaceful protests. They are still participating in high numbers, but when things turn into clashes and violencethe number of women is reduced, you don’t see them as much in the pictures, fewer are at the frontline than before.

There have been mixed reactions within the women’s rights community to the appointment of 6 women in the current cabinet. What is your take?

Achieving women’s rights is not only the job of the 6 women ministers, of course we would like them to push a women’s agenda forward but that’s also asked from the rest of the cabinet, the prime minister and the parliament and all kind of decision-making, political parties and so on. Women’s rights are everybody’s business: education, tourism, culture: it should be something that all ministries commit to. With regard to the Ministry for Women Empowerment, minister Safadi has recommended to the prime minister how to phase the portfolios placing the work under the National Commission for Lebanese Women, which I understand the PM has approved.

We saw on the street last week, women mobilizing for their right to transmit their nationality, and it has been on the agenda of women and activist groups for a long time, do you think that there will be a push in this direction?

Years and years of fighting and mobilizing women eventually led to an increase of representation in which 6 out of 20 minister positions are now filled by women. This demonstrates that finally the issue of female representation and discrimination against women is put on the table and that we should keep pushing to get achievements done by this government. The ministerial statement committed to equal rights for men and women and to the implementation of the national action plan on Women Peace and Security. We take it as a commitment to equal nationality rights too. The demands of the protests were clear about what women want to have in place and legislative reforms regarding personal status laws, nationality law and sexual harassment. We will build on that and continue to fight for these issues, as much as possible with the current composition of the government and the situation.

In the report you stress how women endorsed different roles, and diverse the women in the protests were, was this heterogeneity impacted on the long run?

It’s the opposite actually, the fact that the protests are taking place all over the country, compared to previous ones, makes it more inclusive and shows the diversity of women: women with disabilities, women in professions, mothers, students, women across all socio-economic classes as well as the high visibility of LGBTQI persons, especially lesbians, queer and transwomen.

What is refreshing is that different generations are taking part in the movement. We were really surprised, towards the end of the second month of the protest: you would see big students’ and schools’ movements, with girls, adolescent girls taking it to the streets. The intergenerational dialogue within the women’s movement is engaging as well as the emergence of new actors and ways of mobilizing: all of these new emerging faces that we are seeing in the feminist movement are using non-traditional way of mobilizing like social media, street talks, community talks, public talks. The way they see things are different:

While more experienced women, feminists would like to organize, unify and have clear path in relation to the women’s rights agenda, the younger generation wants to be part of the bigger change in the country, the governance, to increase transparency and accountability. They are less interested in organizing and coming together, grouping. They are more eager to engage with the wider movement.

How do you perceive the intergenerational solidarity?

We are witnessing some natural cooperation, coordination and dialogue that are done without much effort, it’s very organic. For example, if we look at the de-escalation efforts that happened in some hot spots like Khandak el Ghamiq and Tayyouneh:

It was the older women that took the streets under the banner of ‘mothers’, but the organization and the representation, was also shared by a lot of young women. However, the leading roles had been given to the mothers as they still have memory of the war, which is something no one wants to bring back.

It came naturally, they didn’t sit at a table and decided it, the roles were endorsed spontaneously. From now on, we would like to see how this intergenerational dialogue can lead to an agreement on what are the priorities for women’s rights to look forward.

What are the achievements for women in the protests according to you?

At UN Women, we work on social norms, masculinities, and the image of women and their status in society. What happened in the protests has moved us forward, like years ahead, it’s massive! There is a wide consensus that women have a central role in times of insecurity or protest like what we’ve seen. They have challenged the common image, showing day after day that they are capable of doing all sorts of things, not only within their traditional gender roles, leading talks, chanting, discussing technical portfolios like oil and gas, corruption, governance, aviation, privatisation, etc. What caught our attention was to see the leading role women journalists had in these protests: the way they de-escalate conflict, defended protesters, and made sure that interaction between military forces and protesters stayed peaceful. We saw the emergence of strong female public figures in all source of sectors, in the academia, in arts, in tourism. For example, by organizing local tours like what’s happening in Tripoli to give an alternative picture of the city, all of this is women-led. The central role women played in the protests has put pressure on the new cabinet to ensure proper women representation, rather a minimum women representation because the demand now is 50/50 as well as to be represented as multi-taskers.

The fight against sexism is central in the protests as we have seen protesters oppose the sexism that sparked against women in the cabinet even if they don’t endorse it. There were a lot of groups, even those critical of the new government, that issued public statements against sexism and behaviour revealing toxic masculinity against women ministers. One of the battles that the protesters are fighting is one against patriarchy and by condemning this behaviour even within the movement, they are establishing advanced foundations towards this path.

In women’s marches, or gathering for women’s issue the crowd is mainly made of women, such as the one on the nationality law, how could those demands be mainstreamed in the rest of the movement, what should be done towards that end?

I disagree with you, what we see in the women’s marches and across the country reveal that it has become a public demand. Nationality rights are not confined to the usual people leading these campaigns. From UN Women estimates, there were about a 20% representation of men in these gatherings, which is a first. Nationality rights go hand in hand with obtaining a unified personal status law. There is a consensus, even the president made a statement about it, that unified personal status law is the first steppingstone towards a secular civil state which is also one of the protesters’ key demands.

I do believe that through the protest, women’s rights have become part of the global reforms, that the global reforms have endorsed the women’s rights demand. They became part of each other instead of parallel paths.

What is missing in the current movement regarding the women’s mobilization?

I think, the key conversation now is about the harsh economic situation that we are facing. Even if there is a commitment by the government to move forward on the women’s rights agenda in terms of legislation, on discrimination, representation and all of that, the economic situation is impacting the whole population and we know from evidence collected in other countries that went through similar situations as Lebanon, that women pay a hard price when there is an economic crisis. Unless there is a solution that includes gendered perspectives on the economic crisis, women will continue to suffer. And we know that with economic crises, come higher levels of violence against women: negative coping mechanisms towards women which are usually linked to gender-based violence, exploitation and abuses. Now the issue is: how to prioritize women and protect them in this time of economic crisis so that we preserve the gains of the past three months and mitigate the negative consequences.

Moreover, the allocation of enough resources to the women’s rights groups and feminist groups to continue do what they have been doing for years is crucial and we need to push for it and hold the government accountable. It takes place on multiple levels: the government allocating resources for women, the economic crisis and its impact on women and enough resources for women’s rights organisation, emerging groups, feminist groups to continue the work they have been doing. Government budgets’ allocations, economic crisis mitigation and resources made available by the international community to the women’s rights groups

We witness a feminist surge all around the world and the media has covered quite extensively the presence of women on the streets in Lebanon, they’ve been at the front page of many newspaper. Do you think that this could impact the often-under-funded women’s rights organisations?

Yes, it helps. What we see now is that with the economic crisis there are many threats on women being pushed on negative coping mechanisms, more violence at home, more marginalization from the job market, higher unemployment, more poverty and so on. But we also see opportunities, and this is what we try to communicate through our monitoring: we are worried from the economic hardship situation. But we also see a lot of opportunities when we plan forward, we should look at both: how to mitigate the threats and the risks. But also, how to build on the opportunities. Now we have women ministers in place, we have higher status of women in the eyes of everyone. We have the emergence of a movement decentralized in every region, some that were invisible before like Balbaak, Akkar, Nabatyeh, Hermel, Sour. In all these places there’s an interesting intergenerational dialogue happening and lots of innovation in the way women are mobilizing, dialogue and channel their demands. In our bilateral conversation with the donors, the international community, embassies, within the UN, we are trying to highlight both. It’s important to look at the humanitarian emergency consequences of the hardship situation but we should also keep an eye on the opportunities, not to lose the momentum. We tend to think short term: people are hungry, unemployed but we must also look on how to achieve longer term results, because there is a momentum now and it’s time to act. Everyone wants to look good, show they are modern, progressive, efficient, effective all of it, so that’s the time to push for results. There are also new feminist and women’s right actors that need to be supported and given more space in the media.

In previous uprising, women have also been at the frontline, but afterwards, they suffered a backlash on women’s rights, how could we avoid it?

It’s already encouraging that we reached 30% representation in the new cabinet, it will be difficult in terms of any composition of body of decision-making in the country to go back to below the 30%. We must make sure that this government commits to longer term changes in terms of women’s equality, legislative reforms and the implementation of the national action plan on women peace and security that enforces women’s presence in decision-making bodies. The third thing is to make sure that the donor community understands the importance of both: short term goals and long-term gains. And everyone is working towards this. As UN-women we are also measuring the impact on the economic crisis on women so that we highlight that extra measures need to be put in place, to avoid that women affected by the economic crisis go back to the situation prior employment etc. We are acting on behalf of the UN, and then obviously with the government through short term, middle term and long-term work. We developed a framework that we are sharing with everyone we are working with mediation skills, and life skills for women. At the level of the community, referral to services and at the level of the country, legislative reform, policy and budget allocations.

Another crucial point is the potential backlash against women’s rights activists. We have seen the case of women being threatened, traced as well as their families being contacted and threatened, specifically on social media. Despite it all, women are relentlessly pushing for change. And they will get there!

Summary: Understanding the Role of Women and Feminist Actors in Lebanon’s 2019 Protests – UN Women Report, 13 December 2019

13th of November 2019 – Protest on the highway leading to the Presidential Palace, Copyright Dar al Mussawir

“Today marks the 100th day of the Lebanese uprising. The situation has evolved since the publication of the report that covers the development of the uprising from its inception until the 58th day. These past weeks have been marked by escalating violence, arbitrary arrests, injuries, deepening economical crisis and a newly appointed government. On the 100th day the momentum is still alive , we are on the eve of a weekend where immense gatherings are planned across the country and worldwide with the diaspora organizing in major cities. Some updates about recent events were added in the summary.”

By Vanessa Zammar

Introduction

Protesters took the streets on the 17th of October in response to decades of social and economic injustices, corruption and human rights violations. Since the beginning of the movement, women played multiple roles: “leading on political organizing, civic engagement, gender justice advocacy, de-escalation of violence, mediation, online mobilization and media coverage.” In their introduction, the authors outline the correlation between women’s participation in participation in protest movements and non-violence, with movements significantly more likely to remain non-violent when women are participating in large numbers which has been the case in Lebanon. Nonetheless, it is important not to essentialize women as inherently peaceful. Their explanation lies in the fact that, historically, women have been excluded from decision-making position, from institutional politics, and have therefore less interest in maintaining, fighting for a status quo.

Primary data was collected through interviews and discussions with 50 women participating in the protests, from government institutions and women’s rights/feminist organization from different parts of the country and social media data. It includes analysis from Facebook, Twitter, and other local online platforms covering the protests (Akhbar Al Saha and Daleel Thawra, Hirak Baalbek, Aley Tantafed, Daraj and Megaphone) as well as the social media profiles of over 110 persons. The secondary literature covers local and international literature, and some scholarly literature on women’s roles in mass movements and women’s, peace and security.

Diversity in representation & roles

The report estimates that during the first week of the protests, women represented half of the protesters in Beirut and Tripoli. The proportion varies depending on the region, reaching 30% in the South, and the Beqaa and throughout the territory, decreases at night.  Women has a long history of participation civil society, fighting for women’s rights and leading feminist activism in Lebanon. Yet, the report highlights that their online activism (based on Twitter data) is lower than that of their male counterparts. Two factors come at play according to the authors: men have a greater access to internet in Lebanon and the dissuasive aspect of violence, through the sexism and cyber-bullying that women tend to face.

The report stresses the importance of not considering women as a homogeneous group. Female representation in the protests is intersectional: women from various socio-economic background, geographical areas, sects and age take part in the movement, as well as the crucial role played by the members of the LBTQ community. Understanding the heterogeneity of women protesters and activists allows to avoid falling into the trap of essentializing their role in the movement. Women endorse different roles: leading, organizing marches and sit-ins; maintaining non-violence in the protest by standing as a physical buffer between protesters and the security forces/army at times of tension; writing articles, facilitating public discussions, cooking for protesters, taking care of the mental and physical health, and cleaning-up the squares. Women are at the front, playing around with gendered norms and stereotypes to debunk violence “‘what’s wrong with you animals, I am a woman!’. Older women report strategically utilizing the revered concept of motherhood, reasoning with security personnel with commentary such as, ‘Don’t harm us, I could be your mom. Women used their motherhood as a shield against provocations of sectarian tensions, by organizing “Mothers’ Marches”, uniting neighborhoods by marching hand in hand, building inter-sectarian and inter-generational bridges. With their mobilization they create new spaces and new conversation about women’s rights and political participation.

However, gendered norms do not only oppress women. The ongoing economic crisis has had a detrimental impact on men. The country has witnessed a wave of suicide, as men in Lebanon carry a disproportionate economic burden of providing to their family. This speaks to deeply entrenched notions of Lebanese masculinity.

Engagement meets resistance

As women across Lebanon challenge traditional gendered norms by occupying public space and taking roles of leadership their mobilization meets resistance from both within the movement and anti-revolution counterparts. Not stopping to social norms, women are shaking the media coverage, by channelling news through independent media instead of relying on national mainstream ones. Writing in the local press, organizing an increasing number of press conferences about women’s rights and activism, they utilize feminist approaches by spotlighting topics that tend to be marginalized such as sexual rights and the abuse of migrant workers. This media activism has met resistance as well, with reported harassment and assaults of more than a dozen female journalists.

Since the beginning of the uprising, sexism, sexual harassment, gendered threats and homophobia go hand in hand with the massive presence of women and LGBTQ in the protests. It is used to delegitimize their actions and dissuade them from keeping on. Those behaviours target as much protesters and female government officials. Since day one, female government officials have been condemned by feminist groups who worked on changing the slurs and slogans, getting rid of their sexist tone.

In comparison with other countries in the region, women in Lebanese protests report relative safety, the harassment frequency varying between Beirut and other cities. Sexual harassment was set under the spotlight as women protesters took the streets on Saturday 7th of December to demand protections from sexual harassment and violence in Lebanon. The march was also in response to a case where 50 women filed complaints against the serial harasser and sexual predator, Marwan Habib. The case came under the spotlight recently with the mobilization in front of Hobeish Police Station on the 20th of January: where a crowd gathered in support of the women testifying against him, Marwan didn’t attend the hearing. His absence played in favour of the victims as he now has two warrants out for his arrest. This allows the case to be presented directly to a judge and court of law, making him prosecutable.

Bringing gender equitable demands to the table

Aside from the general demands of political and economic reform, women have been requesting equal national rights and other specific demands. Before the protests/revolution, women have been campaigning for an increased political representation of women, a unified personal status law, the right to pass on their nationality to their children and inclusion of the most marginalized through their battle to dismantle the Kafala system that rules domestic workers, consideration of disabilities, female headed households and queer and refugee rights. Their mobilization echoes with other movements in the region, and call in solidarity of their sisters in Iran, Saudi, Iraq, Sudan and Algeria are frequent in the protests.

What about the government?

The National Commission for Lebanese Women has been developing the Lebanon National Action Plan for Resolution 1325 and passed by the Council of Ministers in September 2019, ensuring an increased representation of women at all decision-making levels. Women’s roles and representation has been noted and praised in the speeches of government officials, stressing the importance of women’s rights and gender equality. The new government was announced on January 21st: six female ministers are in Lebanon’s new cabinet, increasing women’s representation to 30%, the highest number of women in the Council of Ministers in the history of Lebanon

Conclusion

In their conclusion, the authors highlight how women carved new spaces for political engagement and activism. By transgressing social gendered norms, they surely face threats, like in the case of the journalists but also manage to demonstrate how necessary they are to the new country the revolutionaries are aiming for. Their representation, not only in numbers but also in the diversity of their roles and identities, will be crucial in the government to come. UN Women’s reports warn against a potential violent or unsuccessful aftermath that tend to be detrimental to activists and women’s human rights defenders, stressing on the necessity to have women in peace and decision-making roles. Yet, women did not wait for these positions to be assigned, the authors emphasize how, through their action in the revolution, they already carved new space for political engagement and activism.


Link to the report

Islamic Feminism & Family Law Reform

After two years of work, Dr. Connie Carøe Christiansen, Reem Maghribi, Dr. Fatima Sadiqi, and Sara Abdel Ghany were able to share their research! We at the Arab Institute for Women are excited to take part as we have supported these women in their pursuits over the last two years. 

On Tuesday, November 12th, LAU in New York hosted a panel on “Islamic Feminism and Reform of Islamic Family Law in Morocco, Egypt and Lebanon” as a finishing touch on a conference where this topic was hotly shared and discussed. Islamic family law can encompass issues around citizenship, personal status laws, custody, marriage, divorce, and the perceived role of gender as it applies to social and family norms. The concepts of Wilayah and Qiwamah are considered highly important to these discussions by both the women of this panel and Islamic feminists and scholars more widely. The interpretation of these concepts and the ways in which reform is sought, is multifaceted.

The panel proved to be a lively discussion by prominent feminist scholars and otherwise highly impressive women, pondering some of the largest questions on the subject. How do we define Islamic feminism? How can it be used strategically to ward off the patriarchy in the quest to reform family laws and gain a just and equitable future for women? How does Islamic feminism influence other political trends and movements and vice-versa? What is the importance and role of each ‘level’ – transnational, national, and local as family law reforms are sought? Feminists do not shy away from asking the big questions. This, we know. 

Original Research

Starting off the evening, Dr Connie Christiansen, the lead researcher of the project, invites us to consider whether Islamic feminism at the transnational level “trickles down” and influences national contexts in their fight against oppressive family and personal status laws. At the root of this research is an assumption that gender equality is encouraged in Islam, or at least made possible in principle. She suggests, using their findings, that Islamic feminist organizations primarily take on two main battles: 1) advocating equal access for women in religious spaces and Islamic leadership, and 2) the reform of family laws to reflect the spirit of equality presented in the Quran. So, how are transnational feminism movements and demands influencing Morocco, Egypt, and Lebanon at the national level?

Morocco

The Moudawana, the Moroccan family law often given credit for being progressive, was fought for by women from national and local levels, across spectrums of religious and secular identities. However, Dr. Fatima Sadiqi (the lead on the Morocco case study) is finding that this victory should not necessarily be seen as a reconciliation between secular and Islamic feminists at any level of advocacy. Instead, it marked a pivotal chance for the Moroccan state to paint itself as a ‘modern, secular state’ for its own political purposes. If feminism is instrumentalized by the state in small victories, there is a chance that movements for reform will be short-lived. (This will also undoubtedly be important in places like Lebanon where feminist demands are at the heart of the revolution.)

Egypt

In Egypt, many reforms have been attempted but only minor changes to gender inequality have been secured, and ones that fail to go beyond skin-deep. For example, divorce has become more accessible for women but it comes at the expense of economic compensation for divorcees. Sara Abdel Ghany, the research lead on the Egypt case, found that the private/public distinction in family laws lends itself to a patriarchal understanding of Islam. Specifically when it comes to Qiwamah, an Islamic feminist interpretation of Islam has the potential to lead a reform process along the lines of a more just, gender-equitable, religious interpretation. 

Lebanon

In Lebanon, there are 15 separate family laws for 18 separate sects, where sectarianism defines the political and economic structures. As the research lead for the Lebanon case, Reem Maghribi highlights an instance that shows the potential Islamic feminist influence over family laws. A network of Sunni activists recently helped raise the child custody age, strategically chosen as an issue because this matter is not explicitly mentioned in the Quran. Women’s groups in Lebanon are often focused on civil code. Could an Islamic feminist approach open up strategic possibiities to engage with religious leaders on matters surrounding family law? Dr Christiansen says that seeing religious leaders as possible partners “instead of a stomping block for reform” has the potential to create the kind of Islamic feminist knowledge building and strategy to affect reform processes.

Overall, Dr Christiansen suggests that their findings show a gap between Islamic feminism at the transnational level and reform at the national level. Yet, there is no doubt that the potential for reform exists. Early recommendations from the research indicate a need for “translators” – agents from groups like Musawah and Karamah (both of which were represented by their founders on the panel) to train and knowledge build with women at national and local levels.  

Islamic Feminism

Dr. Mulki Al-Sharmani gives us the most comprehensive explanation of Islamic feminism.

She considers four primary, defining factors:

  1. It is multidimensional! We should see Islamic feminism as a knowledge building project that includes the global north and south in a transnational space but also at the national and local levels. It is hinged on two truths: 1) “Gender inequality as reflected in muslim family laws is at odds with the Quranic principles of equality and justice, as are the lived realities of muslim women and men,” and 2) It is NOT “monolithic, fixed, or sacred, and can be revisited.”
  2. It is part of a new religious discourse, including new actors. She tells us about the new Congress in Indonesia of female religious leaders established in 2017 that holds the power to decide on fatwahs, child marriage, domestic violence, and environmental actions. 
  3. A feminist agenda that pushes for family law reform.
  4. It exists at the level of ordinary life! The knowledge building components include women who seek religious knowledge and see the discrepancies between their reality and the Quran when it comes to gender, but may not be part of women’s rights activism. 

Here, We All Agree on Patriarchy

Despite any disagreements of the evening, there is always one thing feminists can agree on. The need to identify and vanquish the patriarchy, in all forms. There was a consensus among the women at the panel that we must pinpoint the origins of patriarchal interpretations of Islam and redefine them in the pursuit of gender equity and justice. 

Dr Mulki calls these patriarchal interpretations, ‘classical islamic jurisprudence’. Dr Azizah Al-Hibri encourages a historical approach as well, demanding answers to a universal question that feminists from all parts of the world could stand to seek. ‘At which point did patriarchy make an assumption and turn into law?’ While she was speaking about Islamic interpretations and how they become oppressive family laws, any woman reading this will undoubtedly find their own application. Dr Ziba Mir-Hosseini asks why male dominance became a part of muslim tradition, refering specifically to Fiqh, a ‘set of time-bound interpretations that defines laws’, asserting that these notions of gender roles no longer fit in the context of our time.

History & The Political Moment are Key!

Social movements, the politics of the time, and revolutions have a direct impact on demands of Islamic feminism, and vice-versa. So how does Islamic feminism insert itself as a knowledge building project into already existent social movements and reform efforts? Dr Al-Sharmani encouraged us to examine our assumptions on the direction of change and progress, pinpointing the case of Egypt as a space where broad debates surrounding Islamic law actually created new space for Islamic feminism. Between 2007-2011 there were many debates about the possibility of new reforms, and it was here in part that new Islamic feminist scholarship formed. After 2011, people were holding workshops and collaborating, including those from religious backgrounds and feminist scholarship. Other reform/revolutionary processes can in fact make way for new types of feminism. We should allow other influences to change our notions of feminism and find new ways to strategize.

What is the transnational? Does it even exist?

Push back on the idea of a ‘transnational trickle down’ was apparent on the panel. Dr Mulki inherently challenges the idea that we must start at the transnational level at all, but suggests looking to the local level could be more strategic and fruitful. She further questioned whether Islamic feminist movement has a hierarchy at all. She mentioned Musawah, the organization she is affiliated with, and argues that all women who are in the organization are local actors, bringing their differences to the table, where they can all reflect on them. 

It certainly wasn’t the only time this concept came under scrutiny throughout the evening.

Dr Azizah Al-Hibri, one of the founders of Karamah, another influential Islamic feminist organization represented on the panel, interrogated the transnational analysis. She problematizes the ‘trickle down’ method by arguing that it typically takes on a secular approach rather than coming from a space of Islamic feminism, often trying to reach secular ends. Dr Al-Hibri asks why Islamic feminist organizations and other muslim spaces would want to get funding from western organizations to make sure muslim women at the local level are studying Wilayah and Qiwamah? What if their concern is not the same as ours? Will it inject secularism?

Dr Mir-Hosseini then spins this conversation a new direction, saying, ‘I want to be proud of a global, universal international feminism. Why should muslim voices not be reflected there? Why allow feminism to only be defined by the western feminists?’ She also pushes for human rights frameworks, citing CEDAW as a helpful starting place because they take the effort to define discrimination. She says that although the Quran does not define justice, the makings of a just world can be found in the interpretations. Helpful to the quest for a just world are transnational, universal efforts to help define discrimination so we can stop it in all manifestations. 

Closing

As Dr Mulki reminds us, the law-making level is never the end of the battle. We must also work towards building cultures of acceptance for the standards, making sure that is has meaning for the ways people marry, divorce, raise their children, have relationships, and are able to live in safety, security, and fulfillment. 

Check out this comprehensive report by Musawah on the positive developments in muslim family laws!

We do wish you all could have been there. If you’re not feeling satisfied enough by our summary, watch the whole event on our Facebook stream! Stay tuned as the research is further shared, written, and discussed! And please, reach out if you would like to write about any of these topics, and comment below.