Lebanese women take a stand against exclusion from nation’s politics

Lebanese women take a stand against exclusion from nation’s politics

The history of politics in Lebanon show that it has long been unjust to women. The Parliament did not open its doors to females until after the war ended in 1991, and even then in very low numbers because of sectarian considerations or political inheritance.
Women were also let down time after time as they tried and failed to change Lebanese laws to end inequality, marginalization and violence against women.
The current electoral law, adopted in 2017, did not include a quota for female representation, as had been promised by some of the big political parties, and so they were able to easily break their pledges of gender equality when drawing up their electoral lists.
Lebanon has long been known as one of the worst countries for the representation of women in politics, whether in the Cabinet or Parliament as a whole. Thus, the Lebanese elections scheduled for May 6 are remarkable for the level of participation by women. The number of female candidates has reached 111, which is 14 percent of all those standing. This is unprecedented in the history of Lebanese parliamentary elections.
It is noteworthy that 43 of the women are standing as independents or for civil society or political forces not part of the power elite, and that women are completely or largely absent from the lists of the more powerful parties.
There is no female representation on the candidate lists from Hezbollah, which announced from the start of the election campaign that it would not nominate women because parliamentary work is too “exhausting” for those with family obligations. Nor are there any women on the lists of the Progressive Socialist Party, headed by Walid Jumblatt.

 

It is noteworthy that 43 of the women are standing as independents or for civil society or political forces not part of the power elite, and that women are completely or largely absent from the lists of the more powerful parties.

Diana Moukalled


Hezbollah’s negative and backward-looking position was highly criticized, but the other major parties did not keep their promises regarding the number of nominated women. The rate on the lists of the other major parties varies between 5 percent and 10 percent, which is very low.
The most remarkable thing is the great enthusiasm of the female candidates to run and prove themselves against the male-dominated lists of the main parties. The perfect proof of this are the “Women of Akkar,” an all-female list in Akkar, north Lebanon, where five women decided they did not need men to put them on a list so they could run for election.
Also remarkable is the fact that the lists of independents include high-profile women from the civil and cultural arenas, who delivered candidacy speeches calling for the modernization of laws and declaring political stands on major issues such as the rejection of Hezbollah’s arms and the necessity for the state to wield its power fairly.
The electoral laws and the security and political circumstances mean that there is little doubt that that the elections will result in the return to power of the existing political elite in Lebanon in high numbers. However, the growing presence of women, and their impressive and enthusiastic electoral campaigns — even those who have extremely limited financial resources make excellent use of social media and direct interaction with the public — is a very important and vital political development.
Yes, there is a change in female representation that we are starting to feel. Even if that change is not reflected in the election results, it will absolutely reinforce a trend that will grow in the years ahead.

• 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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