It is hard sometimes to believe that it’s the 21st century when obsolete laws are still being enforced in Lebanon.
While politics interfere in women’s rights related to the citizenship of their kids, archaic sexist mindsets prevail in society, and gender discrimination continues in sectarian courts, it is staggering that civil laws have breadwinning restrictions on over 51% of the Lebanese population for being women.
Lebanon does prohibit employers’ discriminatory acts based on gender, color, nationality, religion, age, or race, as dictated by the Lebanese Constitution. But, on the ground, everything is different.
The Lebanese Constitution clearly states that “Lebanon is a parliamentary democratic republic based on respect … especially the freedom of opinion and belief, and respect for social justice and equality of rights and duties among all citizens without discrimination.”
The Lebanese Labor Law also lays down in Article 26 that the “employer may not discriminate against working men and women with the type of work, amount of wage or salary, employment, promotion, professional qualification, and apparel.”
Thus, gender discrimination is basically prohibited by law, on paper but not in practice. Many studies showed that Lebanon can forbid candidates from being hired due to gender, age, and even sect.
In 2000, Lebanon introduced Article 26 of the Lebanese Labour Law to secure women from any act of discrimination regarding “the type of work, the amount of remuneration, employment, promotion, vocational training, and clothing.”
However, Article 26 of the Lebanese Labour Law is followed by Article 27 that clearly prohibits the employment of women in several industries listed in Annex 1 of the Labor Law.
According to Annex 1, “in conformity with the provisions of articles 22, 23, and 27, it is forbidden to employ children, adolescents, and women in the following jobs or industries:
Underground work in mines, quarries, and all stone extraction work.
Oven work for melting, refining, and firing of mineral products.
Silvering mirrors by the quicksilver process.
Production and handling explosives.
Glass melting and firing.
Production of alcohol and all other alcoholic drinks
Handing, treatment, or reduction of ashes containing lead, and de-silvering lead.
Production of welding material or alloys with more than 10% lead content.
Production of litharge, massicot, minimum, white lead, mico-orange, or lead sulfate, chromate, or silicate.
Mixing and pasting operations in the production or repair work of electric accumulators.
Cleaning workshops where the operations are listed under Nos. 9, 10, 11, and 12 are carried outs.
Operating driving engines.
Repairing or cleaning driving engines on the run.
Work in a warehouse of fertilizers extracted from excrement, manure, bone, and blood.
Cutting up animal carcasses.”
Forbidding women to undertake these specific jobs could have stemmed from certain reasoning to protect them from hazardous and/or tough jobs.
However, Lebanese women are legally authorized to work in even more dangerous and more difficult jobs than the listed above, namely working the fields, fighting in the military, flying military and commercial airplanes, undertaking civil engineering constructions, and so on.
Whether Lebanese women want or not to assume any of the listed prohibited jobs should be up to them. They should have the right to decide according to their capabilities, their financial needs, and their job likings.