NAYA| Discussing Feminism from an Arab perspective: Do the struggles of human rights and feminism really meet?

“How can you defend an ideology you believe in, but that is also imposed by the government you’re fighting?”
by Christy-Belle Geha

4 March 2020 | 15:39

Source: by Annahar

  • by Christy-Belle Geha
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 4 March 2020 | 15:39

BEIRUT: Feminism has long been considered as a fight on the margin of other economic and social fights for human rights. But how true is this?

“If considered in depth, the question on whether feminism and human rights have common struggles or not isn’t as simple as it sounds,” said Bochra Triki, a Tunisian LGBT activist.

Triki and Magda el Sanousi, a Sudanese gender specialist and activist, conversed on feminism and human rights’ carrefours in the Arab world on Saturday, during the first edition of the International Feminisms Festival at the Institut français du Liban.

Léa Yammine, deputy director of Lebanon Support, moderated the roundtable titled “Feminisms and human rights: a common struggle?” to an audience quasi-full of women with a shy presence of men.

“It is not always evident that feminism is completely integrated in human rights because human rights allow power relations, domination, and space relations, in a space that’s still not ready to be divided as it should be,” noted Triki.

Citing three types of political participation - the opportunity to register as a candidate and vote, the participation in the creation of the constitution, and the contribution to peace-building - el Sanousi explained that women’s participation in politics is an integral part of political rights, and that in practice, number of obstacles inhibit women’s active participation in politics.

“The shy political participation of women is mostly due to totalitarian regimes followed in the Arab world,” she stated. “Totalitarianism leaves lots of women outside the political participation sphere, and the only women who might be allowed in that sphere are those who support the governing political party. Patriarchy will never cease if no woman is in the parliament to legislate in favor of women’s rights.”

One of the practices to encourage women to participate is the adoption of a quota, which would help rectify women under representation in prominent positions, according to El Sanousi.

On a similar note, Triki explained the rise of the “State feminism” in Tunisia, her mother country, where Habib Bourguiba, who served as Tunisia’s leader from the country’s independence in 1956 till 1987, imposed State feminism, a controversy for the decades that followed.

In fact, Bourguiba was known for his progressive thoughts, but also for his oppression towards those who disagreed with his thoughts.

“How can you defend an ideology you believe in, but that is also imposed by the government you’re fighting?” asked Triki.

The State feminism was still imposed by the State under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s second president.

“This institutional appropriation of feminism harmed the social fights for feminism,” added Triki.

After 2011, the right to assemble and associate has emerged in Tunisia.

“We felt like an unimaginable world is emerging too. All the components of the Tunisian civil society unified for the first time,” highlighted Triki.

Triki reassured that, however, “there are many attempts at advancing the intersection and complementarity between feminism and human rights.”


Welcome to “NAYA,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations. NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: [email protected]

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