It has been so familiar to our ears and eyes to hear and witness gender discrimination's matters and breach of both Human and Women’s Rights in Lebanon. However, if we put the efforts to see and track the feminist movements in our country and the progress they have made so far, we can definitely be proud of how much faith, vision, and persistence this 10,452 KM2 of ours encompasses.
In fact, it's time we take a walk back on that lane, not to cite and give tribute or the like but for us to see with clarity how far have we reached and what's left to be done.
Women’s and feminist movements in Lebanon started their interminable journey back in the 1920s when the Women’s Union was founded to work and tackle cultural and social matters as its ultimate goals.
Right after Lebanon’s independence in 1943, the Four Waves of Feminism became distinguished and both concretely and directly linked to the Theory of Change. Individuals, activists, and collectivities acted to abolish gender discrimination, gender roles, and gender-based violence, aiming at improving women’s wellbeing and empowerment.
Worthy to mention that between 1940 and 1960, there were generations of feminists working towards the same ends. Movements, demonstrations, and protests have existed for so long and they’re not new to Lebanon. On a concrete note, the feminist movement, back when the first electoral law was declared, fought tremendously to entitle Lebanese Women to their right to vote.
1951 Lebanon saw the birth of a new unity established between these movements: The Unions of Feminist Organizations. It included the predominantly Christian Jam’iyat al-Tadamon al-Nisa’i (Women Solidarity Association) and a collective of Muslim women organizations: the Ittihad al-Nisa’i al-Loubnani (The Lebanese Union of Women).
The Lebanese Council of Women followed, later on, to lead the direction of the Lebanese feminist movement and provide social services to Women.
During the golden era of President Fouad Chehab, Lebanon witnessed the blooming of newer women's organizations: Al-Tajammou al-Nisa’i al-Dimocrati al-Lubnani (Lebanese Democratic Gathering of Women – LDGW) and al-Ittihad al-Nisa’i al-Taqaddumi (the Progressive Women’s Union).
A lot of advocacy, lobbying, and humanitarian work were put in place to recognize women as an essential part of the Lebanese political life, and therefore activate their participation and contribution to it.
Later to that, other Non-Governmental Organizations saw the light like Lebanese Council to Resist Violence Against Women (LECORVAW), KAFA (Enough) Violence & Exploitation and Women’s Democratic Gathering, among others of course. They were established to work on advocating for Women’s Rights, ending domestic violence, and mitigating the risks on both Women and Children.
Back to the “Four Waves of Feminism” in Lebanon, the 1st Wave emerged with the pioneers of the feminist movement back in the 1920s. This wave achieved actually both success and elitist provenance for the liberal ideologies and reforms that it tried to initiate.
The 2nd wave emerged during and after the civil war in Lebanon (1975) in order to fight for justice, rights, peace, and security.
In 1979, Lebanon adopted and signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Upon the UN Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, Lebanon gave birth to the 3rd wave of feminism and to more non-governmental and humanitarian work around gender and social justice.
The 4th wave initiated in 2005. Demands of the movements turned towards eradicating laws that protected husbands and male legal guardians from the crimes of domestic violence. Consequently, that wave doubled the efforts towards achieving environment peace and abolishing all kind of sexism and discrimination.
Currently, Lebanon is living the 4th wave, with some success in regards to penalizing domestic violence. It’s crucial to flag that with the case management and helplines of many NGOs working on ensuring the safety of Women, psychosocial support is being provided.
While the feminist movements and demonstrations for women's rights and safety are ongoing, as our society and its movements are more determined than ever to bring Lebanon to a safe and healthy level of equality, it is safe to say that Lebanon has achieved so far many desired outcomes and goals.
For instance, the Lebanese government has agreed in 2015 to examine recommendations to adopt laws that increase the age of criminal responsibility and that eliminate child and forced marriage.
Adding to that, Lebanon's parliament has scrapped the law under which a rapist could be exempt from punishment if he married his “victim”. Another thing to highlight, many workplaces in Lebanon have been committed to equal pay and recruitment while others are as well working towards providing lactation rooms in their offices.
The road to a well-balanced state of gender equal rights to safety, dignity, and progress has been indeed a long and exhausting one. Yet, it is little known how relentless our women's movements have been at work for almost a century.
And if the civil war and its aftermath came to freeze our progress for almost two decades, and the political conflicts and instability have impeded it many times, these movements did not give up, as you now know.
There are still more obstacles to break and more laws to adjust. The journey hasn't ended, and we do hope that, with the unity of all our people, the destination we aim for won't need another century.