A letter to the President of the Republic: What about Lebanese women Mr. President?

Thu, 05/22/2014

Mr. President,
We take the liberty of addressing you publicly as the President of the Republic entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the Constitution and the Law, upholding equality amongst all women and men citizens, and guaranteeing transparency and accountability.

The purpose of this candid and open letter is to share our thoughts and insights with regards to the current position and state of the rights of Lebanese women especially those married to non-Lebanese. On this occasion and for the record, we have often tried to meet with you during your mandate to share women’s concerns, but, alas, to no avail.

Your mandate which started after the devastating Israeli war of 2006, and stretched between 2008 and 2014 has undoubtedly witnessed some very serious developments both regionally and internationally, causing much disappointment particularly amongst the many who had high hopes for a better future.

It is to be reminded Mr. President, that Lebanese women, and notably those married to non-nationals, have been struggling for a long period in order to secure their natural, inherent and inalienable right to dignity and gender equality in citizenship right. Women generally have had to endure injustice because of the historical discrimination reproduced by a patriarchal order, which retains Lebanese women in a subordinate position at all levels, be it social, economic or political whilst all forms of physical and legal gender based violence remain unfettered and in full force.

Mr. President, during your mandate, Lebanese women have strived to achieve a progress towards the recognition of their rights by the Lebanese political community. This, alas, did not bear fruit despite the significant efforts, sacrifices and mobilizations undertaken by women and their groups, except the endorsement of a disfigured law to protect women from violence and the enactment of some partial and small scale legal reforms.

Unfortunately Mr. President, the approaches adopted by all your consecutive cabinets remained short of understanding the importance of liberating women from their discriminatory shackles, which will help all components of society to move towards overcoming the current endemic crisis.

A main landmark of this failure is undoubtedly the refusal of the Mikati Cabinet to endorse a law which would enable Lebanese women to transmit their nationality to their spouses and children based on the shameful recommendation of the Ministerial Committee which was formed to that effect and which used, or rather abused, the arguments of the Palestinians right to return and the national demographic balance.

This brings us to the still unconfirmed news regarding the issuing of a new Presidential decree which will “grant” Lebanese nationality to 700 foreigners including many who are Palestinians and from other Arab and foreign nationalities.

This news, if true, will not come as a surprise as similar presidential decrees have been endorsed during your tenure albeit in secret.

Mr. President, regardless of the highly controversial nature of these decrees, and without delving into their circumstances and peculiarities which we have already discussed in earlier occasions such as for instance in the case of the endorsement of presidential decree 10214 in September 2013, it would have been better for this move to come as a symbolic gesture towards the sons, daughters and spouses of Lebanese women, denied their full right of citizenship, so as to recognise the injustice still befalling them. However, we do emphasise that such injustice can only be addressed with a reform of the discriminatory nationality law.

We can only hope that the next mandate will bring forth a President who will be ready to overcome confessional cleavages, while being committed to the principles of inclusive citizenship and rights and and who will work on bringing about equality between women and men especially through reforming the nationality law.

In conclusion, we pledge once more our commitment to Lebanese women and Lebanese society at large, to pursue our efforts to realize their hope for equality and in acquiring full citizenship.