NAYA| Looking back on 2018: Lebanon's headlines for the "Year of the Women"

Larger-scale inclusion of women in the Parliament proved to be a “bridge too far” this election cycle, with only six women winning, but change has started and women’s participation in the event grabbed major headlines and was considered a step forward by all women groups.
by Sally Farhat

8 January 2019 | 09:22

Source: by Annahar

  • by Sally Farhat
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 8 January 2019 | 09:22

Protestors holds banners with a message against sexual assault during the 16th edition of the Beirut Marathon in the Lebanese capital on November 11, 2018. (Photo from AFP-Anwar Amro)

BEIRUT: 2018 was not a standard news-making year for women. On an international level, the world has witnessed the rise of several movements and female activists that voiced out various women issues.

These acts of change and names that dared to challenge the world moved side to side with the year all the way till they reached the finish line: Women in Saudi Arabia gained their driving right, the U.S. midterm elections ended with 235 women winning nominations for the house, including Muslim-American Rashida Tlaib who won on the Democratic ticket, and the list goes on for both parties.

Right before 2018 passed the throne to the New Year, these women activists had made sure that the globe recognized all their resonating voices and 2018 as Year of the Women.

In Lebanon the gender status quo continue steady, albeit slow change. The top local changes on the women front were as follows:

Elections: A nationwide conversation

The year began with great excitement. After nine years of pushing back and forth with the parliamentary elections, 2018 was finally declared the year were citizens gained back the privilege of practicing their voting right.

But that’s not all. Beyond citizen’s celebration of finally being able to vote, Lebanon spent much of the elections period noting the historical number: 111 women candidates running. Billboards all over the country commemorated these female nominations.

Larger-scale inclusion of women in the Parliament proved to be a “bridge too far” this election cycle, with only six women winning, but change has started and women’s participation in the event grabbed major headlines and was considered a step forward by all women activists’ groups and others.

Domestic Violence: A shout from behind closed doors

Domestic violence was another topic that dominated the news.

According to Rayan Majed, a representative from activist-group KAFA, this topic was worked on the most by the NGO in 2018.

Majed explains that KAFA’s work on domestic violence started in 2007. But, 2018 carried some changes that made it a major point of discussion.

“It is the cumulative work of years on the topic that made us reach where we are today,” Majed told Annahar.

In 2018, KAFA was able to generate three major changes regarding domestic violence.

In collaboration with the Internal Security Forces and the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW), the NGO was able to launch a hotline available 24/7 to any person facing any kind of abuse.

“We started working on creating this hotline in 2012,” Majed said. “During these past few years we presented members from the Internal Security Forces with trainings on how to deal with victims of abuse.” The number of trained personnel now totals up to 1,300.

Aside from the new hotline number (1745), KAFA opened a support center that presents victims of violence with psychological and judicial support if necessary.

“KAFA has received 1,100 cases of women seeking support during the past year,” Majed added.

Throughout the year, KAFA has also observed how cases of domestic violence are being dealt with.

Going back to the beginning of 2018, Lebanon has witnessed a number of cases of women being murdered because of domestic abuse. Early in the year, the NGO organized the first protest in years to take place in Nejmeh Square. The protest demanded reexamining Law 293 which was issued in 2014 with aim of protecting women from domestic violence.

KAFA then worked with the Ministry of Justice and drafted amendments to this law that included redefining domestic violence to comprise all sort of abuse among other amendments.

Right before 2018 reached an end, the drafted amendments were transferred to the respective parliamentary committees.

Rape: “Shame on Who?”

Beyond domestic violence and the elections, rape and its victims were yet another major point of discussions in 2018.

Building on a larger initiative that was launched in 2016, activist-group ABAAD continued its fight for reformation and protection for victims of rape.

The campaign started with the ‘’White Dress Doesn’t Cover Rape- #Abolish_522’’ in 2016. The NGO aimed at eliminating the penal code that exempts rapists from punishments if they marry the victim. By the end of 2016, the campaign was able to pressure responsible actors to repeal Article 522 from the Lebanese Penal Code.

ABAAD then continued the battle with its 2017 campaign: “Life for Life.” The former focused on rape incidents that occur within the family.

In 2018, ABAAD added a new series with its campaign titled “Shame on Who?”

“As part of the 16 days of activism, ABAAD launched its 2018 campaign ‘Shame on Who?’ or ‘Meen El Falten?’,” Hala Jamil, a representative from ABAAD, told Annahar. “This time, the campaign aimed at increasing awareness about the subject and presenting women with a safe environment for disclosing rape cases.” Adding that the NGO has been able to sense an increase in disclosing rape cases in 2018 in comparison to other years.

The campaign has generated major conversation in the country. A few days before officially launching it, the NGO sent out messages to most citizens stating: “Meen el Falten?”

Social media filled with comments and questions asking who is behind this message.

ABAAD gained the attentions of Lebanon on the topic and was thus, able to increase more awareness on the subject in 2018.

The NGO has also presented the Internal Security Forces with further training on how to deal with victims of rape.

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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: Sally.farhat17@gmail.com

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