Will Parliamentarians’ sudden concern to protect women extend to women’s citizenship rights?

Tue, 07/30/2013

In an unexpected surge of conscience, Lebanese politicians and parliamentarians suddenly realized the responsibilities they carry towards protecting women from domestic violence.  As a result, the Parliamentary Commissions endorsed, during their sessions of 22 July, the law petition to protect women from violence after including some significant revisions to the initial proposal.  This endorsement followed the gory murder of Roula Ya3coob by her husband in Halba.
The decision was received with warm welcome by activists, feminists and civil society organisations despite the change in the title of the law which has become the “law to protect women and all family members from domestic violence”.  Other stakeholders indicated their reservation vis-à-vis this new development. Within this same vein, “Kafa” Enough Violence and Exploitation and the “National Coalition for Legislating the Protection of Women from Family Violence”congratulated all women in Lebanon and highlighted the gains achieved namely in reinstating the specific mention to “women” in the title of the law, reconsidering the criminalization of marital rape although this was limited to criminalizing the acts of physical abuse and threats to obtain “marital rights” and, also, the revision of clause 26 (which has now become clause 22) which clarifies in great details the role of each court instance.  Both KAFA and the Coalition noted that the fight is not over yet but will continue until the law is passed by the general assembly and so as to provide full and sufficient protection for women. Serious concerns were expressed as to how long this process will take in view of the current political tensions.
Frankly, it would be rather difficult not to question the good will of politicians towards women’s demands, whether members of parliament or the former cabinet, and the truthfulness of their statements to the media welcoming this new development. This is particularly so given the protracted period that this endorsement required and the stonewalling by the same politicians and their adamant refusal to support women’s right to equality through reforming the nationality law and introducing a quota system for women’s political participation.
We are also reminded that a number of key issues related to citizens’ rights and entitlements remain unaddressed such as the review of the salary scale, electoral reform (including allowing citizens to vote as of the age of 18 and the rights of non-residents to vote), equality in family laws through the adoption of civil family laws, securing social rights including health coverage, a pension plan as well as other fundamental rights that remain hostage to the politicians’ whims.
Hence, it is quite difficult to believe that the current political elite is genuinely concerned with the rights of citizens while they continue bickering around confessional lines and banking on foreign external support.
Indeed, we acknowledge that the passing of the domestic violence bill is a positive step. We nevertheless remain hopeful that the winds of change in the region may inspire people in Lebanon and that new a form of political leadership which will be more truthfully concerned with citizens’ rights, equality and social justice.