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Women in Lebanon

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Women in Lebanon

Women in Lebanon
Women of Mount Lebanon in the late 1800s.
Gender Inequality Index
Value 0.443 (2012)
Rank 78th
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 25 (2010)
Women in parliament 3.1% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 53.0% (2010)
Women in labour force 22.6% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value 0.6028 (2013)
Rank 123rd out of 136

Lebanese women are considered to enjoy more rights and freedom compared to other women in the Arab World. Women in Lebanon wear whatever they want and move freely, unlike other countries in the region. Lebanese women enjoy almost equal civil rights as men. However, due to the large number of officially recognized religions in Lebanon, Lebanese family matters are governed by at least 15 [2] personal statute codes. Lebanese women have legal protection that varies depending on their religion.[3] In muslim families, marriageable age can be as young as 12.5 and polygamy is allowed.

Children born to a Lebanese woman and a man from another country will not have their children granted Lebanese nationality.[4]

Local and regional NGOs have helped to increase awareness of violence against women in Lebanon.[5][6] Government policies regarding this are poor however, and attempts to improve this area have been met with resistance.[7] Lebanon's laws do not recognize the concept of spousal rape,[2] and attempt to add this to law have been attacked by Lebanese clerics.[8]

The family in Lebanon, as elsewhere in the Middle East region, assigns different roles to family members on the basis of gender. The superior status of men in society and within the narrow confines of the nuclear family transcends the barriers of sect or ethnicity. Lebanese family structure is patriarchal. The centrality of the father figure stems from the role of the family as an economic unit. This notion prevails in rural regions of Lebanon where women participate in peasant work. However, it is noticed that the percentage of women working in the labor force has increased. Since, 1970, Arab societies have allowed women to play a more active role socially and in the work force, basically as a result of the manpower shortage caused by heavy migration of men to Persion Gulf countries.

Notwithstanding the persistence of traditional attitudes regarding the role of women, Lebanese women enjoy equal civil rights and attend institutions of higher education in large numbers (for example, women constituted 41 percent of the student body at the American University of Beirut in 1983). Although women in Lebanon have their own organizations, most exist as subordinate branches of the political parties.


  • Political Representation of Women in Lebanon 1
    • Women’s Suffrage 1.1
    • Women in Politics 1.2
    • Political representation 1.3
  • References 2
  • Gender Roles 3
  • Single Mothers in Lebanon 4
  • Economy:Women 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Women's Movements in Lebanon: Women's Rights and Violence against Women 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Political Representation of Women in Lebanon

Women’s Suffrage

Women in Lebanon gained suffrage in 1952, only five years after men did (in the year 1947). Men did not receive the right to vote until fours years after Lebanon was freed from the [9] Women gained the right to vote but with a limitation, they had to have an elementary education. Women had to have documents that could prove that they had received at least an elementary level education. This limitation was lifted five years later in 1957 without much discourse or a fight.[10]

Women in Politics

Women gained the right to vote halfway into the 20th century, thirty years after American women suffragists gained the right in the United States. Though the women of Lebanon garnered their right to vote fairly early on, there is still a huge lack of them in Lebanon’s political sphere. The political field in Lebanon, like most of the rest of the world, is male dominated. That is not to say there are no women actors in Lebanon, they are just few and far between.

As of 2009 there had only been seventeen women to serve on [9] NGOs or non-governmental organizations have been created in response to the lack of women’s political representation. The government did not take heed to any of their suggestions.

According to Dr. Zeina Zaatari “Many women's

External links

  1. ^ Khalife, Nadya. "A Woman's Place, in Lebanon." Human Rights Watch. July 2, 2009. Accessed December 5, 2014.
  2. ^ "About "Who Is She in Lebanon?"" Who Is She in Lebanon? Accessed December 5, 2014.
  3. ^ Al-Hibri, Azizah, and Mary Bailey. "Interview: Beyond the Veil and the Vote: Lebanese Women Today." Off Our Backs 4, no. 7 (1974): 23. Accessed December 4, 2014.
  4. ^ Damon, Arwa, and Tim Hume. "Lebanese Women Take on Muslim Judges Who Call Rape a 'marital Right'" CNN. February 17, 2013. Accessed December 5, 2014.


Marginalization of Women: Since many socially accepted beliefs stem from religious practices, a myriad of patriarchal and oppressive practices have been incorporated not only into the homes of Lebanese people, but the Lebanese government which aims for the protection of the family unit, not for the protection of women. It is a religious and socially accepted belief that women are subordinate to men although the law states differently. While rewiring entire religions, which are based on that very concept, to regard women as equals is an impractical goal, changing the legal system is a step in the right direction towards claiming women's rights and securing protection of women as well as men. Changing laws to be less conservative, within a country, often lead to a more liberal future generation.

Legal Contributions of Women: Between 2006 and 2008, many Lebanese people protested in opposition of the Prime Minister, marital rape as a crime. Although passing that law may lead to the decrease of many violent situations within the household, its proposed amendment will defeat the purpose of the law. Some women's activists would argue that the myriad of amendments within this law makes the law detrimental to the advancement of women in Lebanon. Because there are so many differences with in each of the religious courts, domestic violence is handled in a different way depending on which region a woman is involved with. It is frowned upon for a woman to ever initiate a divorce, in mostly all of the religious sectors of the parliament. In some courts, a woman asking for a divorce must obtain a substantial amount of evidence regarding her husband's indiscretion. Likewise, if a man were seeking a divorce, in many courts he could obtain that divorce with very little evidence, and in the name of honor or family preservation. For example if a woman who was a victim of spousal rape were to attempt to get a divorce from her husband, that effort would be dismissed in many courts by the socially accepted idea, which is supported by Judge Sheik Ahmad Al-Kurdi of the Sunni religious court, that such indictment “could lead to the imprisonment of the man, where in reality he is exercising the least of his marital rights.”.[4] This implies that the man, by virtue of being her husband, is therefore in full compliance with the laws and codes of conduct of Lebanon. In addition, a woman who goes to her family for support in filing for a divorce may be met with both opposition to her decision, and shame surrounding it. Such socially accepted beliefs actively contribute to the marginalization of women's voices in Lebanon.

Women in Lebanon: Lebanon is guided by 15 or more religious codes and courts including [3] Most of these women are educated and trained to fight yet are still subject to discrimination and sexualization in post war Lebanon. Women in Lebanon, as is the sentiment for most Middle Eastern countries, are regarded as the symbol of the nation, not always as an active member. As most contemporary Lebanese women are not known for their contributions outside of the world of scholars, many Women's Movements go undocumented and are brushed under the rug by the patriarchal government.

Women in the Government: In order to understand the true importance of the prime minister which determines the laws that regulate the country. This Parliament is composed entirely of people who openly practice patriarchal religion. Lebanese women won the right to vote in 1952. However, since that victory, only seventeen women have served in the Lebanese parliament. Not only do each of these religions have their own place in Parliament, they also have their own courts and codes of conduct. While Lebanon is often seen as a very liberal country, arguably the most liberal country within the Middle East, the systematic oppression of women is still prevalent. Currently, women are able to: marry freely while understanding that divorce may bring about a great deal of socioeconomic hardships, vote as long as they are able to prove that they have obtained an elementary education, have jobs as long as those jobs do not encroach on their domestic obligations, and walk around in public without having to wear hijabs. Unfortunately, even with all of those superficial rights, women are still subjected to unwanted advances and social discrimination. Constitutionally, Lebanese women and men are regarded as equals; however, they are not free from laws and publicly accepted socialized behaviors which encourage male intervention of those rights in the name of honor or family preservation.

Women's Movements in Lebanon: Women's Rights and Violence against Women

  1. ^ Lebanese constitution
  4. ^ Penal Codes https://freedomhouse.orgs/default/files/inline_images/Lebanon.pdf
  5. ^ Penalties https://freedomhouse.orgs/default/files/inline_images/Lebanon.pdf
  6. ^ a b c The Pulse of the Middle East
  7. ^ a b KHAYAT,R. 2000 "Hospital practices in maternity wards in Lebanon"
  8. ^ Article 215 https://freedomhouse.orgs/default/files/inline_images/Lebanon.pdf
  9. ^ Lebanese Women in Work Force/Economy


See also

Women have the right to work in Lebanon. Though given the right more men are still seen in the work force than women ( see figure 4 below by the Institute of Women’s Policy research). More women especially those between the age 36 to 55 tend to stay in the home and tend to their family and children duties, playing into the social norms of women’s role in Lebanon’s patriarchal society. Although men are relatively represented more in the work force, women still work. Women are more likely to take on part-time jobs if they do work as they have to tend to their household duties as well. Article 29 of Lebanon’s Employment Act was amended to increase maternity leave; however, Lebanon does meet the standard given by the ILO convention 103 granting women no less than 12 weeks. Not to mention Lebanon does not offer services to help with childcare making it hard for women to indulge themselves completely in the work force and paternity leave is not offered at all. Common jobs for women who do work are generally in the service area or do specialists work ( see figure 6 below by Institute of Women’s Policy research to see other jobs women take part in) . Women’s salaries compared to their male counterpart is drastically different. Men tend to make more than women causing a vast gender wage gap. Three times as many men as women make more than 1101 dollars per month while three times as many women as men earn less than 300 dollars a month. Although, women and men who work in the government/public sector make similar wages, women in the private sector do not and 86 percent of most workers in Lebanon work in the private sector and 80 percent of the women in the private sector make 700 or below (see figure 9 and 10 by Institute of Women’s Policy research for wage gap). There is also a big gap between pay based on a woman’s age. The younger the woman the more likely she is to be paid less ( 2 out of every 3 young women earn 500 dollars or less) as increase in pay comes with years of experience.[9]

Work Force

Civil war and the Israel War on Lebanon has affected Lebanon’s economy tremendously. Since 2008 their economy has grown about 8 percent but not significantly enough as they are still a country highly in debt from war. Women in correlation with the economy have been able to participate since the 1970s but they are still underrepresented in the labor force and are the first to be negatively impacted when the economy fails. Currently in Lebanon, Article 215 of their Law of Contracts and Obligations allow men and women the same right to own and administer property. Married women can even own and manage their property separately regardless of their religious affiliation.[8] Although given the same rights there are still inequitable repercussions that negatively affect the women more than men. For example, if a woman’s husband declare bankruptcy then there are restrictions that are put on the women's property but not the man’s. Furthermore, there is some legal wording that makes it harder for women to stand completely independently economically because women’s property, if married are considered purchases by the man’s money and technically considered an asset of the man’s unless proven otherwise. Here you see women though given equal opportunity to acquire property, still not completely equal to man as there is legal wording that gives women a harder time to be seen as an individual human being instead of a subordinate or an asset/accessory to her husband.



There is a necessity to advance the work examining the health effects of maternity care, and the attempts made to enhance the healthcare providers policies and traditions practices. Where-best-practice is not in place. There has to be an intervention that takes place soon in Lebanon.[7]


Eight out of thirty-nine hospitals in Lebanon had well established prenatal care classes, however only three actually enrolled all women in these classes. There were other forms of providing, such as information at a low, only having four hospitals giving written information regarding care during the labor as well as delivery. Six healthcare providers reported that inquiring women about their preferences. Furthermore, few gave women any opportunity for procedures such as shaving, enema or fetal monitoring application. Lastly, it was seen that all places had strict mobility for women in the delivery process, including eight who tied their arms and legs.[7]

Hospital practices in maternity wards in Lebanon

[6] There are so many stories regarding single mothers in

Common Struggles for Lebanon Women

A woman by the name of Samar, made it very clear just how misunderstood she was and felt when it came to motherhood. A young man that she considered her friend, lured her into trusting him and them he raped her and left the country for work. He would not return any of the calls she made to reach out to him. This first reach in this situation in Lebanon is for the parents to make the young man marry their daughter. The second attempt was too convince the women to have an abortion.[6]

Mothers were described to be very alone in the process once they embarked on motherhood. The average thought of Lebanon woman, after she finds the news that she is carrying a child is, “My life stopped and my world was crushed when I found out that I was pregnant. … The whole world was against me. No partner by my side to support me, no family to acknowledge me after I had brought shame to our family’s name, as they say.”[6]

Single Mothers in Lebanon

Women and men are looked at differently based on their gender in Lebanon and the stipulations and norms are different for both. The penal codes in Lebanon specifically in marriage tend to be in favor of the man. Article 562 works in the favor of men for violence ( kill/ abuses or injures) against his spouse or even female relative as it reduces the sentencing of man.[4] This code reduces the sentence if the man can prove that the woman engaged in illegal sexual intercourse. Furthermore, if the male spouse is an adulterer before accused his adulterous act is questioned on whether it was done in the marital home or the adulterous relationship become public; however, the woman if accused of adulterous acts anywhere anytime no matter the circumstance is automatically convicted. Moreover, if convicted the sentencing time is less for a male than female ( male: one month to one year; female: three months to three years).[5]

Marriage: Women vs. Men

Education Education was on the colonial agenda from beginning to end and was awarded special attention on account of its perceived ability to effect the greatest change in the greatest number of Lebanese. It was also something that missionaries and colonial administrators believed they could collaborate on together, as they imagined a similar citizen-figure into which Lebanese children were to be crafted by the West. Young people were marked out by foreign missionaries for their potential to transform not just the next generation of Lebanese but also the present generation of parents, especially mothers.[3]

According to one treatise on the five schools of Islamic law, "There is consensus among the schools that menses and pregnancy are the proofs of female adulthood. “The strictures of acceptable behavior pertaining to a woman's menstrual cycle were not simple, and her ability to comply with them, especially to follow the proper schedule for ritual washing , meant that she could handle "adult" tasks. It was at this point, too, that she would typically begin to fast for the entire length of the day during the holy month of Ramadan, like an adult. However, "all the schools concur that any discharge that occurs before a girl reaches the age of nine years cannot possibly be menstrual; it is due to disease or injury." So, while nine was a technical minimum of legal adulthood for females, menstruation that early was unexpected. Fourteen or fifteen, for boys and girls, was a much more likely age at which to expect the onset of puberty.[2]

Procedures for Children

Parenting was an important political act for some Lebanese in the aftermath of the First World War. This resulted in the reflection of critical transformations in French-Lebanese relations but also contributed significantly to the process of the state formation. Literature situating children in any historical context in Lebanon is also liable to frame childhood in highly static terms and to underestimate its significance in a matrix of other social, cultural, political, and economic forces. Those identified as such were variously understood as infants, children, youth, adolescents, boys, or girls, mostly on account of the social and gender roles they played, rather than any other set of factors, but also sometimes by age, biology, and even class. One of the most conflicted domains, however, in which definitions of the child were called into question was the law. Also, for Islamic jurists, the age at which a woman received her first menses was important for several reasons. Not only did it signal her entry into adulthood biologically, but it also meant that her responsibilities as a Muslim increased significantly.[2]

Raising Children


Women’s rights has become fairly progressive over the centuries in Lebanon compared to other Middle Eastern countries as Islamic Law(Sharia Law) is not used to implement laws ( however different sects may uphold some traditions within their community). For example, Article 7 of the constitution of Lebanon asserts that all citizens should have equal rights and duties regardless of gender.They also have Article 8 of the constitution of Lebanon that individual liberty will be guaranteed and protected by law; however Lebanese women still face gender discrimination.[1] Though some laws are put into place in respect to women and their rights, officials are not frequent with enforcing specifically, gender equality. Not to mention there are still some discrimination laws and penal codes that have been put into place and these laws remain because Lebanon is based upon patriarchal social norms and majority of the men in Lebanon acquire the high positioned jobs within society. Because patriarchal social norms are enforced, women find the laws set to protect their women rights as ineffective and more restrictive than men in Lebanon, granted urban Lebanese women have more opportunities than rural Lebanese movement but both women alike still face restrictions on their actions. Though Lebanese women have the right to attend school, get a job in society, etc. the expected norm is for them to still be subordinate, submissive, and make time for the home. Some discriminatory acts that women face as Lebanese women that heavily restrict their movement are rules on divorce and parental custody. Because it is still common in Lebanese culture (where many are Muslim) that woman shall submit to their husband, many salient rights are given to the husband/father first before the mother.


Gender Roles

  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Gender Equality in Lebanon | Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)
  3. ^
  4. ^ The Daily Star | News | Politics | Hariri vows support for women's rights
  5. ^ Women's Rights Monitor
  6. ^ The Daily Star | News | Local News | Over 30 NGOs demonstrate for women's rights
  7. ^ IRIN Middle East | LEBANON: Tussle over gender violence law | Lebanon | Early Warning | Gender Issues | Governance | Human Rights | Security
  8. ^ Lebanon's clerics attack domestic violence law - Arab News
  9. ^ a b c
  10. ^ Elections in Asia and the Pacific: A Data Handbook : Volume I: Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. Oxford University Press. 2001. p. 174
  11. ^ Khalife, Nadya. "A Woman's Place, in Lebanon | Human Rights Watch." A Woman's Place, in Lebanon | Human Rights Watch. N.p., 2 July 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2014
  12. ^ "Lebanon's Women Lose Political Ground." - Le Monde Diplomatique. N.p.


As of 2009 according to Don Duncan of Le Monde Diplomatique (English edition), “With only 3.1% of seats now occupied by women, Lebanon is at the bottom of the table of parliamentary representation of women in the Middle East, down with conservative Gulf states like Oman (none), Yemen (0.3%) and Bahrain (2.7%) (2). whereas neighboring Syria has 12.4%, Tunisia has 22.8% and Iraq has a 25% quota for women.".[12]

“The major political parties thus include Hezbollah and Amal( Shi'a); Future Movement, led by the son of the assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik el Hariri (Sunni); Phalange Party and the Lebanese Forces( Maronite Christians); Progressive Socialist Party (Druze); and the Free Patriotic Movement which in theory has members from all confessions, but remains predominantly Christian.” [vii]These religious based parties often discriminate against women and refuse to include them, especially Shi’a and Sunni.

Lebanon formally identifies that there are eighteen religious acknowledgements of Muslim and Christian denominations in the country. [11]

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