We will never move forward if we don't have equality

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We will never move forward if we don't have equality

We are witnessing countless wars in the world today. Every time one conflict calms down, another flares up. Yesterday’s enemy may become today’s ally and vice versa. However, with all these wars changing sides and places, there is one battle that is always engaged: The permanent war against women.
This is no exaggeration or augmented feminism, and we are not begging for solidarity. Even if everyone rejects war practices against women, such as killing, raping and enslaving, there are always cultures, laws and practices that pave the way for such violent actions.
Let us look into our everyday life. When a female activist in matters of public interest expresses a political opinion or statement on her personal social media accounts, she is inundated with heated discussions and sexual and discriminatory insults. This is recurrent in Lebanon, as well as other countries and societies where women are attacked, forcing them to disappear or retreat from public arenas.
In Lebanon, elections are approaching. Religious ideological parties, such as Hezbollah, refuse to nominate women to run for parliamentary elections, claiming that it is burdening for them and challenges their domestic responsibilities. Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has previously encouraged child marriage in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, about two years ago, Lebanese MP Elie Marouni said that some women were giving rapists a reason to target them. This opinion was reiterated by an Egyptian MP, Nabih Al-Wahsh, when he accused women of being responsible for their rape. He went even further by saying that the rape of women who wear daring outfits was a “national duty.” Similar stories and statements are endless. 
However, something has begun to change in Arab societies: In Tunisia, for example, the laws have significantly improved in terms of gender equality. The same applies to Saudi Arabia and other countries. Nevertheless, there is no doubt there is societal and political resistance to gender equality changes.
Arab women’s journey from being commodities, subordinates or puppets to people with equal rights and duties, capable of playing an active role in public life, has a long way to go and is full of difficulties.
Diana Moukalled
The plight of Arab women is ongoing. Their journey from being a commodity, subordinate or puppet to becoming a person with equal rights and duties, playing an active role in public life and politics, has a long way to go and is full of difficulties.
Many Arab regimes, whether conservative or revolutionary, only work to perpetuate the position of women as subordinates. Arab societies that have undergone revolutions, except partially for Tunisia, have not been preoccupied with the status of women and the need for change. Military regimes choose to work on transforming women into soldiers, showing them off on official occasions, while Islamists have found in women another subject for disciplinary measures under sacred texts.
The repugnant old style, which is based on showing off and praising a well-known female figure here and another business woman there to show that we have made significant progress in gender equality, is still dominant. In fact, the topic of addressing gender issues is not often present in public debates, or it is sometimes used to prove Western conspiracies, especially when calling for societal and behavioral reforms.
Women’s rights are a crucial issue for the resurrection of the Arab region. This cause is taken up by a limited number of feminists, jurists and activists in civil society organizations, as well as advocates and supporters of principled convictions; however, they have very limited influence. The same applies to Western pressures exerted on our governments, as the latter circumvents international demands, applying minor refinements without addressing the heart of the problem.
Women can no longer bear the slightest possibility of not criminalizing what they are subjected to, while using other designations to take into consideration someone’s feelings or someone else’s beliefs. For decades, feminist groups have been working on addressing this reality. They have been following pivotal agendas at times and progressive ones at others, either to highlight complex problems, make the needed changes in behavioral and intellectual patterns, or push toward the desired legal amendments. Without equal laws between us, Arab men and women will never move forward, and being idle in this case should not be countenanced.
 
  • Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. Twitter: @dianamoukalled
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