Lebanon News

Activists slam government inaction over women’s rights

The protesters had numerous demands linked to women’s rights. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Women’s rights campaigners voiced Monday their frustration over the government’s inaction over key issues, namely equal citizenship rights and protection from domestic violence. At a news conference held jointly by the “My Nationality is a Right for Me and My Family” and the “National Alliance for Legalizing the Protection of Women from Family Violence” campaigns, organizers spoke of what they called the systematic neglect of citizens’ rights.

“Lebanon’s women want to hold the government accountable for its neglect of their daily rights and for the continued alienation of their causes from national interests,” said Lina Abou Habib, coordinator of the nationality campaign.

Nationality campaigners handed a draft law to Prime Minister Najib Mikati on the issue last July, and this March, for the first time, it was addressed by Cabinet, and a ministerial committee formed.

However, the committee has yet to meet, and Abou Habib believes the president of the board has no intention of calling a meeting any time soon.

Currently, if a woman has children with a non-Lebanese citizen, they cannot pass on their nationality, making it difficult for them to receive social benefits such as education and health care.

The ministerial committee is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Samir Moqbel, and also includes Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, Justice Minister Shafik Qortbawi and Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour. There are no women in the 30-member Cabinet.

While admitting that the national “political and security situation is tense, and the demands of daily life are stressful,” Abou Habib added that “this issue is also urgent.”

Members of the committee have admitted that the topic has been sidelined, which revealed a pervasive patriarchal attitude, Abou Habib said.

“The fact that the committee has not yet met is a sign in itself of the ongoing attitude of excluding women’s issues from the national agenda.”

Abu Faour has expressed his belief that despite his personal support for equal citizenship rights the committee will not be called to session, which is Moqbel’s prerogative.

Most opposition, Abou Habib added, comes under the pretext of concerns over Palestinian naturalization, and is not limited to either political coalition, with the Lebanese Forces, in the opposition, and the Free Patriotic Movement, which is in government, both having expressed reservations over the issue.

“Again, it seems that the government has not worked according to the Constitution or to decisions it has made – i.e. forming this committee,” she said. “This is a sign of an ongoing attitude which neglects all citizens’ rights.”

Nationality campaigners have called for a sit-in Thursday in front of Moqbel’s office, to demand he call a meeting and for increased transparency over the workings of the committee.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 17, 2012, on page 4.

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