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Drafting a New Story: Women's Rights in the Middle East

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By Maggie Abu Khadra

Originally published on Sawt al Niswa, February 22, 2011

It is no secret that the Lebanese people are awaiting the formation of the new government. Yes, one again. Governments in this country, lately, tend to last a year or so. It’s become a national hobby to “await the new government.” The politicians keep yo-yoing between deadlocks, resignation and formation. It’s a closed loop. Every two years, we experience the same roundabouts of events.

Meanwhile, the dust is building up on the shelves. Laws are rotting away while we are waiting for a functioning government and parliament to deal with “serious issues.” Their bickering over a ministerial seat is drowning the country. Current issues have been put aside. Laws that should have been voted on and applied by now, have been set aside.

It is a shame that antiquated laws are deemed worthy to run this country. Almost nothing, or at best very little, has actually been done in the last few years. This stalemate has frozen progress on issues such as domestic violence, children’s right and women’s rights, among others. There are many bills which were proposed, even approved by the council of ministers, but not voted on. It is almost a year since the ban on public smoking should have been in effect; a law that should have been voted on and put into application in May 2010. At the same time, the perpetuators of honor crimes are still treated gently by the judiciary. The penal code is both discriminatory and at times retrograde. Some laws should be revised, and others should simply be replaced.

The new government, whenever it appears, has much to work on, New acts granting the children of non-Lebanese fathers some rights, such as the prolonging of their residency permit from three to five years and the right to work in Lebanon, are expected to become law. The bill on the right of Lebanese women to grant their children the citizenship will also be discussed. The application of the law against domestic violence must also be a priority. And more work is still needed to provide legal protection to the rights of foreign domestic workers.

The list of laws, decree and bills pertaining to social issue is a long one. The current statutes provide far too little protection to far too many people. Change, at least, is imminent, if not the formation of the new government.

 

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