Monday, January 09, 2012

Taking our rights, there's no other way

A few months ago, I was talking to my family about some of the major gender issues that really need to be raised in Lebanon. I also said that I am angry enough to engage in activities that promote these issues and raise awareness. To my shock, one of my close relatives blurted out "I thought you were more mature than that. We are in the midst of an Arab awakening. There's no time for western values." I am not going to go into the fit of rage that followed but suffice to say that this was not the only time I had heard such reasoning from people who should know better.

What made me think of this incident is the recent campaign against rape (#FightRape) launched in Lebanon  and which seems to be gaining quite a bit of momentum (check out and join the facebook page here). The thing is, at first, I couldn't get my head around it because the campaign is basically pressuring parliament to adopt the draft Law Protection from Domestic Violence. In other words, it is demanding that the government start penalizing husbands for raping their wives. Apparently, society in Lebanon is not ready for government to intervene in such delicate matters, and by society I mean religious leaders and by delicate matters I mean awful crimes. I always thought the most prominent issue Lebanese women faced was that they could not pass on their nationality to their children, because I relate to that. I couldn't believe that in a country that boasts its liberal values to those around it, a woman can be raped by a man and be forced to make him breakfast in the morning. But it's true. And there is no way to describe it but shameful. It needs to end.

But the problem is so much deeper than that. It's an epidemic. The country (and region) is diseased and it's time for some real solutions. I'm doing my bit and spreading the word about this campaign that is demanding a basic human right for protection from a government ambivalent to half its citizens.

If you're in Beirut then be there, on Saturday, January the 14th from noon until 3 pm at the Ministry of Interior. The demonstration will march to parliament. Bring your friends. Show those quasi-public servants that they are the only ones who are ambivalent.

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