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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 3 - An Unbalanced Econoy: the Growth of Inequality

Gender Equality: An Unfinished Quest

Marie Bonte

Texte intégral

1A significant presence of women in public spaces, rising mobility and apparent liberal social mores in some sections of society may lead one to believe that the situation of women is better in Lebanon than in other countries in the region. However, in terms of gender equality, Lebanon has been ranked 123rd among 136 countries examined by the World Economic Forum. Aware of this ranking, numerous associations defend the rights of women and sexual minorities. They try to obtain improvements in a legislation deemed archaic and demand the translation into concrete measures of seemingly good results in terms of education, economic capacity, and political representation, among others.

Access to education and higher education

2The restructuring plan of the educational system drawn up in 1994, which established 12 years of compulsory education, has helped significantly decrease the number of illiterate women among the population under 20 years of age. On a national scale, according to UNICEF, the enrollment rate in primary education amounted to 97.1% over the 2008-2011 period. These efficient results should not conceal major generational and geographic disparities: the lowest female literacy rates are found in the most rural areas.

3As far as higher education is concerned, the indicators for Lebanon, the Arab world, and the world tend to converge. More present in universities, women accounted for 54.2% of the student population in 2014, that being about 60% of an age group. This good result is related to high levels of student mobility, mostly among male students: 14.5% of the men, to 8.6% of the women, went abroad for a part or the whole duration of their studies. If women were well represented in programs focused on health, human sciences, law and trade (respectively 69%, 61% and 54% of the students), they only accounted for 29% of the students in engineering and construction. Nevertheless, the good access to primary, secondary and higher education that women benefit from has not yet led to a fair economic situation and equal access to employment. Indeed, women only constitute a quarter of the employed population and, in 2009, 61% of them earned less than 500 US$ per month, to 30% of the male employees.

Figure III-25: Generational and regional disparities in terms of female illiteracy in Lebanon

Figure III-25: Generational and regional disparities in terms of female illiteracy in Lebanon

Figure III-26: Ratio of females to males in higher education in Lebanon, the Arab world and the world in 2012

Figure III-26: Ratio of females to males in higher education in Lebanon, the Arab world and the world in 2012

Political under-representation

4Women have had the right to vote and been eligible since 1953. However, their presence in the political life remains marginal, in terms as much of representation as of involvement in a political party. Moreover, more than half of the female politicians in Lebanon got a position thanks to heredity. Only 3% of the seats in parliament are today held by women. On a local scale, women are not better represented. In the 2004 municipal elections, 552 female candidates ran for positions on municipal councils, and 248 were elected (2.67% of total of elected representatives in Lebanon), the number of elected women changing from one governorate to another. At every territorial level, the low participation of women in politics is linked to the various representations of a woman’s social roles which exclude her from political affairs. The significant cost of a political campaign also constitutes a major obstacle to political commitment. Women’s mobilization mostly takes place in non-governmental organizations, which both shows their participation in civil society but also ensures their marginalization on the political stage. NGOs fighting for a better representation of women in politics are pushing for a quota system (a minimum of 30% of female MPs, that being 38 seats), a measure to this day rejected by Parliament.

Figure III-27: Women in the 2004 municipal elections

Figure III-27: Women in the 2004 municipal elections

Women’s and women’s rights mobilization

5Well represented in NGOs, women find a job (paid in half of the cases, according to the CRDT.A in 2006), a cause, or support in these entities. Associations focusing on women’s rights can be divided into three categories: charitable organizations, promotion of research activities implemented by and for women, and mobilization for gender equality and against violence toward women. To those can be added the associations defending the rights of sexual minorities, such as Meem and Helem. Among others, their activists have been demanding the abrogation of laws such as Article 534 of the Penal Code, which condemns sexual relations that are labeled “unnatural”. The impossibility for a woman to pass her citizenship on to the children she has had with a foreigner is also problematic and has been a major and unifying issue for women to rally around. So have been several other concerns: the repeal of law articles setting reduced sentences for honor killings and better protection for women victims of non-consensual sexual intercourse within marriage. Protecting underage children has also been part of the goals of many associations, including with the demand of setting a legal minimum age of marriage at 18. Finally, large-scale awareness campaigns have been launched by Lebanese NGOs to prevent violence against women and promote a change in gender representations.

Figure III-28: Risng awareness about early marriage of very young girls

Figure III-28: Risng awareness about early marriage of very young girls

In December 2015, the association Kafa (“enough”), who fights against the discrimination, violence and forms of exploitation which women are victims of in Lebanon, staged a fake wedding between a child and a middle-aged man, with the advertising agency Leo Burnett. The video was filmed in a public space (the Corniche in Beirut) in order to shock passersby and raise awareness about the fact that the provisions relating to personal status, which fall under the responsibility of the religious communities, sometimes allow for the marriage of very young girls.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure III-25: Generational and regional disparities in terms of female illiteracy in Lebanon
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13246/img-1.png
Fichier image/, 73k
Titre Figure III-26: Ratio of females to males in higher education in Lebanon, the Arab world and the world in 2012
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13246/img-2.png
Fichier image/, 35k
Titre Figure III-27: Women in the 2004 municipal elections
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13246/img-3.png
Fichier image/, 89k
Titre Figure III-28: Risng awareness about early marriage of very young girls
Légende In December 2015, the association Kafa (“enough”), who fights against the discrimination, violence and forms of exploitation which women are victims of in Lebanon, staged a fake wedding between a child and a middle-aged man, with the advertising agency Leo Burnett. The video was filmed in a public space (the Corniche in Beirut) in order to shock passersby and raise awareness about the fact that the provisions relating to personal status, which fall under the responsibility of the religious communities, sometimes allow for the marriage of very young girls.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13246/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/, 87k

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