Women’s Status In Lebanon Is Controversial At Best

Nabil Ismail

Lebanon was majorly influenced by historical masters, whether religious or philosophers, whose preaching and lectures shaped up a major part of the Lebanese culture and laws as well as traditions.

Foreign civilizations and conquerors also came and left, but not without impacting traditions and the judiciary where their marks are still encoded in the system while their countries went evolving and changing the archaic with more just laws.

What is more intriguing is that many of the critically essential statements of the historical masters Lebanon still honors across its various communities were, and continue to be, disregarded by the lawmakers and the courts of the different communities.

It is clear to the educated today that there had been a discriminating selection of what should be endorsed as almost sacred and what should be dismissed as irrelevant, from the same sources; notably in what concerns women, their role, their rights, their status, their security, and their dignity.

The following is by no means a religious or secular argument nor is its purpose.

There is, however, a necessity to cite some matters to shed the light on the controversial practices and mindsets that are ruling Lebanese women’s fate and status in a society that is highly influenced by religions and sects, and also by archaic assumptions.


It is a fact. Religious sectarianism in Lebanon is entrenched in politics as in laws and in the society’s perspective towards genders and their rights. However, it is the politics over religions that are prevailing, and more specifically the socio-political power.

Honor Thy Father And Thy Mother

The divine order in the 10 Commandments couldn’t be clearer. Mothers must be honored equally to the fathers. That Commandement did not say, “Honor the father and then the mother.”

This intrinsically places both genders in their parental role and status at the same level of equality. They both are owed equal respect and consideration in all aspects of life, laws, and justice.

How does the Law honor mothers equally to fathers in Lebanon?

In the sectarian courts of all religions in the country, mothers are not honored. They are in fact greatly dishonored when rulings often, if not always, victimize them by depriving them of their kids and also due pension in divorces and marriage annulments.

Not because they are unfit but just because they are women and the primacy goes to the father for being a man or, worse, to a male family member from the father’s side as long as it is not the mother.

That ongoing standpoint by the courts does contradict the divine order of the 10 Commandments.

This is also relevant with the existing civil law that deprives Lebanese mothers of their birthright to nationalize their own children. Their citizenship, unlike men’s, has strict boundaries that defy even the law of nature, let alone logic.

Change Organization

This law makes a highly controversial declaration that a mother is not Lebanese unless she’s married to a Lebanese. They can turn it around and misinterpret it as they wish to fit their narrative or try to justify the unjustifiable, but the reality is there, too blunt to ignore, too painful not to bring up.

Heaven Lies Beneath the Feet Of Mothers

Prophet Mohammad urged his followers to honor mothers above anyone else, even above the fathers. When asked three times in a row whom a person should honor first, the Prophet of Islam said, “Your mother, then your mother, and then your mother.”

This proclamation highly exerts the importance of a mother and her place in her children’s lives.

The reason lies in the Prophet’s acknowledgment that a mother plays the main pivotal role in the wellbeing of her children since their conception and all through, raising and nurturing them and unconditionally dedicating all of herself to them.

There is no equal love to that of a mother to her children. The law of nature made it as such and it is hardly debatable.

Derek Spalding/CBC

How do the Laws in Lebanon take this into consideration and honor mothers and their pivotal role in their children’s wellbeing and life?

When sectarian courts snatch kids away from their mothers to entrust them to the father or a male family member from the father’s side, as long as it is not the mother, they are not honoring the mother “above anyone else” nor taking into consideration her essential and indispensable role in the children’s lives and wellbeing.

If Heaven lies beneath the feet of mothers, so should the laws of men.

If nothing else, the pain of her labors and what follows of years of selfless devotion should duly grant her all the consideration, if not the priority, in the ruling of courts and by the laws.

The living influence of ancient times

TDS/Mohamad Azakir

Traditionally, as dictated by rules of ancient times, unions controversially split the partnership into unequal roles. Not because there were rights to consider but mainly the force of nature and, yes, the law of the fittest.

That is, based on human physicality.

Men were physically built strong to fight the dangers of the outside unruled world to hunt for food for their families, cut trees to warm their dwelling, and so on. Women’s nurturing nature and the wonder of their birthing capability had them doing what they do best.

With human societies evolving from their first eras, and systems forming to regulate communities, the status did not change much.

Systems and laws were established on the same basis, requiring that men work to provide for their families and keep them safe from external threats, and women to handle and manage all the remaining responsibilities. These included managing and maintaining their homes, ensuring that the children and the husband are well taken care of and well served, and so on.

This dynamic had remained for as long as today’s societies can remember…

….until it has become no longer applicable.

While times have long changed, and financial demands have immensely increased, life has demanded that women also support their families financially to alleviate men’s role in providing.

However, their role as housekeepers and birthing and nurturing children, and serving the family didn’t change.

Henceforth, women’s responsibilities have majorly increased, creating an imbalance in the “partnership” roles, and yet they have been able to cope with it, proving their higher level of endurance and strength.

The Lebanese dynamics

Lebanese men have always trusted the capabilities of their family women to assume their role in the family. That’s undebatable. In today’s Lebanese society, they also strongly believe that their women are more than capable of simultaneously assuming their challenging role of managing a household and working to provide.

In that, they and the lawmakers have complete faith in the Lebanese women to multitask and responsibly manage the household’s affairs, along with birthing and raising their kids, and assuming breadwinning jobs.

Caroline Fattal-Fakhoury, 4 times recognized by Forbes Middle East as one of the most powerful businesswomen in the region – via UNWomen

The endurance that working women in Lebanon have proven to cope with is extraordinary, whatever the sexism and belittling remarks some feel entitled to issue publicly.

For the past several decades, working mothers in Lebanon have had to handle their job schedule and its demands and then back home to mostly solely handle their traditional role of mother and housewife.

And yet, the Lebanese traditional role of mothers at home is the most demanding ever among all existing jobs. Their “job” doesn’t have a shift starting at 8 am and ending at 5 pm, after which they can just relax and get pampered.

It is a 24/7 “job” without any financial gain and that gets a Lebanese woman to eventually master the skills of multitasking major responsibilities, self-control, focus, alertness, and self-discipline while seldom resting.

The responsibilities of the children are generally hers to handle, including taking the kids to medical appointments, attending school meetings, buying or repairing their clothing, and on and on.


Whether a Lebanese woman is a mother at home or a working mother, the responsibilities she manages constitute a heavy load, which she carries with love and a smile.

That makes Lebanese mothers unshakable pillars of the civil society; unshakable until the biased rules and laws do their parts in breaking or shaking them.

The well-being of a Lebanese family, as well as the society hence the nation, depends majorly on mothers whose own well-being is discounted when it comes to their women’s rights.

If women in Lebanon are not protected and “honored” equally to men, it is the future of the nation that keeps being at stake.

A country doesn’t solely prevail with politics and political parties and ideologies. It does with its beating heart and relentless engine that are ensuring the continuation of life and prosperity, and the breeding and raising of its future assets.

So, what is Lebanon doing for those which it needs the most yet disregards?

Resistance to changes

Dalati Nohra / AP

The only reason Lebanon seldom has women in its governments does not stem from their lack of capabilities and strength, or because their brains and their education levels are less or inferior to men’s. Far from it. It has only to do with their gender.

Basically, their physicality.

A characteristic that has long lost its benchmarks in governance, and also in the military, in space explorations, in scientific discoveries, in medical innovations, in business enterprises, and also in ruling countries, and so on.

One may only take a good look at the achievements of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, to see what a woman can do of greatness for her country while in governance.

A Lebanese woman with pertinent education and job experience, and who has gained expertise in managing a household with all that it entails of challenges, is similarly more than capable of managing ministerial affairs.


Activism for women’s rights, while long existing in Lebanon, has yielded few results so far. Changes have been too slow to come.

Lebanon is far behind the world in women’s rights, rarely – to almost never – tapping into that great pool of assets it has.

The stubborn resistance against changes, however, is not only entrenched in the system but also in society and mindsets.

A certain Lebanese politician once said in recent times that ‘women must impose themselves to prove their value’, and that ‘it’s up to the women.’

It would have been more constructive and less patronizing to say instead, “Let us rightfully remove the chains oppressing women so they can give us all their potential” and then act in making it happen in the parliament.

Women in Lebanon have been struggling to “prove their value” not because their value is the issue but because lawmakers are not allowing them.

Lebanese-Canadian scientist, professor, and researcher Mona Nemer, Canada Chief’s Advisor – via CBC

It only takes a glimpse at the outstanding achievements Lebanese women are scoring in the diaspora, in countries where governments have long removed gender-bias restrictions, to acknowledge that it is not just up to women but to the system.

It is also a must to acknowledge the restrictive role society plays overall. What Lebanon lives today, as in the past decades, of widespread social inequity is a situation co-created by both the civil society and the traditional leadership:

The first for continuing to elect the same who failed their country and society, and the second for hanging on to their positions of power refusing to make changes as if their lives depend on it.

The changes must start with the Lebanese people of both genders and all walks of life.

That is, changing their mindset against women’s worth and limitless capabilities, and making rational decisions when voting for a new parliament willing and capable to implement social reforms, which could bring Lebanon to its rightful place in the 21st century.

Because a nation that doesn’t move forward… goes backward.

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