Women in political and public
1. Legal Framework
1.1. Women and the Lebanese Constitution
The Constitution was issued on May 23rd 1926 and underwent several
amendments. The major ones are: those of 9/1/1943, at the time of independence,
after a period of French mandate, and the ones of 21/9/1990 pursuant to a
constitutional law based on Taef Treaty that has put an end to the Lebanese war.
The Lebanese constitution is at the top of the Lebanese laws hierarchy.
The constitutional provisions constitutes a fundamental legal support for
women’s rights in two paragraphs of its clauses: Paragraph "b" in which Lebanon
is bound to the Charter of the United Nations, its covenants and the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, provided that the state should incorporate these
principles in every field and domain without any exception; and paragraph "c",
where it is set forth that Lebanon is a democratic parliamentary Republic, based
on the respect of public freedoms, on top of them the freedom of opinion and
belief, on social equity and on equality in rights and obligations between all
citizens without any discrimination or preference.
The principle of equality is also stated in article 7 of the Constitution. It is
stipulated that: “All Lebanese citizens are equal before the law, they enjoy
equality in civil and political rights and they assume duties and
responsibilities without any difference between them."
Article 12 of the Constitution states as well that: “Every Lebanese citizen has
the right to be in charge of public functions. No distinction shall be made
except in respect to merit and qualification according to the conditions set
forth by the law."
As for article 21, it stipulates that “every Lebanese citizen aged 21 years old
has the right to be elector provided, however, that he (or she) fulfills the
conditions required by virtue of the Election law ". The election laws have not
made any distinction between women and men since 1952
1.2. Women and International conventions:
Lebanon is a founder and active member in the United Nations Organization and
bound by its covenants and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The international conventions ratified by Lebanon and affecting women’s rights:
The convention concerning women’s political
rights issued in 1953 and ratified by Lebanon in 1955.
The convention issued in 1960 by UNESCO
regarding non-discrimination in the field of education and ratified by
Lebanon in 1964.
The Convention on the Elimination of all forms
of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that was issued in 1979 and ratified
by Lebanon in 1996. Lebanon made reserves in respect of Article 9 paragraph
2, article 16 clause 1 paragraph c and d and article 29 (see annex 1).
Lebanon has also ratified the conventions
issued by the International Labor Organization (ILO) that concern women
The convention about engaging women in the
labor underground of 1937, ratified by Lebanon in 1946.
The convention on the policy of employment of
1964 ratified by Lebanon in 1977.
2. Women and the right to vote
a number of Lebanese feminists and leaders of the campaign for women's rights
met and agreed to unify their efforts in an association. The aim: to lead and
give direction to the Lebanese feminist movement.
formed the Assembly of Lebanese Women's Associations (later known as The
Lebanese Council of Women) by merging the Lebanese Arab Women's Union
(instituted in 1929) and the Lebanese Women's Association (instituted in 1947).
first victory was the adoption in 1953 of a constitutional amendment granting
women the right to vote and get elected. This was the culmination of many
decades of activism and struggle by women's rights organizations and their
this was the beginning of over fifty years of struggle to establish the same
social, economic, and political status for women as for men, and to guarantee
that women will not face discrimination on the basis of their sex.
3. Women officials at Public Level
In 1996, following repeated claims from NGOs for women’s representation on a
high level, a decree was issued to form a national committee presided over by
the first lady and with the membership of nines ladies. In 1998, the law no. 720
was passed, establishing the national organization for women affairs constituted
by the said decree, presided over by the first lady with the membership of 24
ladies and an executive bureau of eight members.
This law elevates women’s official representation, links the organization
directly to the prime ministry and grants it executive and coordinating
attributions and a special budget in order to plan a national strategy and work
towards its enforcement.
4. Women in Political Life
4.1 Women and political parties.
The percentage of women members of political parties is still very low and, in
the best cases, it doesn’t reach more than 20% of men’s number. As we have
already mentioned, women’s participation in politics, in Lebanon, still suffers
from men’s influence on the exercise of women’s freedoms and political choices.
Although most of the Lebanese parties have assigned to women independent sectors
to look after the issues related to them in order to motivate them to join the
political work and although women’s access to leading posts in political parties
is still inferior (women’s membership in politburo is not considerable as it
doesn’t exceed 5%) yet women’s presence is very weak in all political parties
without exception, even if some of these parties are strongly backed up by women
like Hezbollah and the Lebanese Communist party.
Maybe the weak participation of women in political parties is primarily due to
the fact that most of these parties have designated special organizations for
women within their mass organizations, which leads to the exclusion of women
from direct political work (Hezbollah’s women, Phalangist party women,
Progressist socialist party women and women’s rights committee for the communist
4.2. Women in the executive, legislative and
Women enjoy the same capacity as men concerning candidacy for posts occupied by
means of election or examination. Nevertheless, it seems that there are customs
preventing women’s access to public leading posts. Despite the fact that Lebanon
was a precursor in acknowledging the right of electing women, after the struggle
led by the pioneers of women’s movements in 1952, this achievement has not been
confirmed in the political representation and women’s access to the parliament
remains rare in terms of number and method.
Women have acceded to the parliament by subordination to men. The first woman to
get to the parliament was Mirna Bustani in 1963, superseding her deceased father
and in completion to his term of office. In 1991, Nayla Mohawad was designated
after her husband, René Mohawad, the elected Lebanese president, was killed.
During the elections of 1992 nine women only ran as candidates for the elections
and ten ladies stood as candidates for the elections of 1996, in both cases,
three had succeeded.
It is relevant to notice that women’s relative participation in power has
increased. In 1998: 78 women were elected in municipal councils and 40 women
were elected mayors all over the Lebanese provinces, whereas during the previous
elections of 1992, 5 ladies were elected as members in municipal councils and 2
were elected mayors. The parliamentary election experience has motivated
organizations to promulgate a national project for the purpose of encouraging
women to stand as candidates for local authority election. Indeed, in 1998, 353
ladies ran as candidates for election all over the provinces among which 139
candidates were elected.
Only in November 2004, for the first time in Lebanon's history, the Lebanese
cabinet included two women Mrs. Layla Al-Solh was appointed as minister of
industry, and Mrs. Wafa Hamza as minister of state. However, that government
resigned on 28 February, two weeks after the assassination of ex-prime minister
At present, six women hold the position of parliament members out of 128; one
woman holds the position of Minister of Social Affairs.
It is relevant to notice that the Constitution opens up wide opportunities to
the president and ministers who believe in equality to drive forward women’s
process. Women still suffer from the obstacles among which the major ones are
related to family, religion and pecuniary problems, in addition to the
reluctance on the part of candidacy lists and political parties to adopt women.
The problem does not lie in the constitution or law but in the discriminating
Obstacles encountered in full implementation of
Using consanguinity solely: Every
person born from a Lebanese father is deemed Lebanese no matter where he (she)
was born. Thus, the Lebanese law restricts consanguinity to the father.
Discriminating between mothers Lebanese by origin and foreign
naturalized mothers: The Lebanese law entitles foreign
mothers that have acquired the Lebanese nationality, the right to grant it to
their underage children if these mothers remain alive after their husband’s
death. Whereas it doesn’t grant this right to mothers who are Lebanese by
Reacquiring the Lebanese nationality:
Legislation makes Lebanese women’s rights to reacquire their nationality lost
due to their marriage to foreigners – Whose country laws forbid double
nationality – contingent on the foreign husband’s approval. This issue
constitutes a minimization of women’s rights.
The partial amendment of article 562 of the penal code concerning what is called
“honor crimes ". This amendment should be considered half an achievement as
although it amends the conditions of benefiting by the articles, it preserves
the principle of honor crimes.
The law no. 7 passed on February 20th, 1999 and published in the
official journal on 25/2/1999 abolished the provision of article 562 and
replaced it with a new provision. This amendment nullifies the permissible plea
and dubious situation, yet it preserves the principle of killing women by family
men members, which is incompatible with article 2 paragraph (g) of the
convention. When considering such a crime, the judicial authorities should not
apply this article, according to article 2 of the procedure law that makes
international conventions predominate internal laws.
The achievements carried out in Lebanon
In 1974, the administrative measure of the Department of Internal Security that
prevented women from getting a passport without their husbands’ permission was
abolished. In 1993, women’s capacity in testimony in land register was
recognized. In 1994, married women’s capacity to exercise trade without their
husband’s permission was recognized. In 1994, the right of women officers
working in the diplomatic corps and married to foreigners to keep on doing their
tasks without transferring them to central administration was acknowledged. In
1995, married women’s capacity to life insurance contracts was recognized.
La participation de la femme dans
la vie libanaise.
Selon une étude du PNUD, la femme libanaise
représente aujourd’hui 29% du marche de travail libanais (en première position
dans le monde arabe), Alors qu’elle n’occupe que 4.7% des sièges du parlement.
Les taux d’analphabétisme sont passes de 37% en
1980 a 19.7% en l’ an 2000. Ce taux est de 8% parmi les jeunes.
50% des étudiants universitaires sont des femmes.
25% des femmes actives travail dans le secteur des
métiers scientifiques et techniques supérieurs. Elles ont trouve des
opportunités de travail dans les secteurs médicaux, légaux, artistiques et
commerciaux sans malheureusement accéder à des postes à responsabilités dans ces
Exemple : 90% des employés de banques sont des
femmes mais aucune n’en est directrice.
The Lebanese council of women
The Lebanese Council for
Women (LCW) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1952
and instituted under
Lebanese authorization license number 3753 – 6/11/1953
Since its inception LCW has stood
for two constant basic believes
unified, sovereign, and independent Lebanon
Lebanon where all citizens -men and women- have equal rights and
LCW is an umbrella organization
that groups today about 170 NGOs spread geographically over the six Lebanese
districts; Beirut, Bekaa, Nabatyeh, Mount Lebanon, North Lebanon, and South
Lebanon. They embody Lebanon’s religious, sectarian, and ethnic diversity.
One of LCW constant objectives is to call for the ratification of
laws that promote a more active participation of women in political life.
The Council believes that women ought to be considered as a
minority whose rights need to be protected by a system of proportional
representation in administrative and elected bodies the same as other Lebanese
Protective legislation for women has been a controversial issue
throughout the history of the women's rights movement. Opponents of protective
legislation have argued that special rules for women would inhibit women's
struggle for equality with men and upheld stereotypes of women as weak and
Yet it is a fact that throughout much of our history, deep-seated
cultural beliefs allowed women only limited roles in society. Historically,
Lebanese women have been denied their civil rights in suffrage (they were unable
to vote until a 1953 constitutional amendment), employment, and other areas.
Although women have gained significant legal rights, and made
gains in certain trades and professions, including financial services, medicine,
and law, but problems remain in many areas and women's share in governmental
decision-making remains limited.
Given that the state has a positive role in ensuring all citizens
equal protection under the law and equal opportunity to exercise the privileges
of citizenship and otherwise to participate fully in national life, regardless
of race, religion, sex, or other characteristics unrelated to the worth of the
individual, the Lebanese state is called upon to remedy the effects of past
discrimination against women.
This can only be achieved in a timely manner by giving women the
protection that sectarian minority groups get according to the Lebanese
constitution, a proportional representation in elected bodies.
It is true that minority groups are usually groups of people
sharing common ethnic, racial, or religious backgrounds, especially when
constituting a comparatively small proportion of a given population, yet
differences between diverse elements of the population can become more
pronounced, causing inequalities through discrimination thus forming minority
groups based on gender or any other human specificity.
Lebanese women fit this definition and ought to call on the state
to ratify reverse-discrimination laws.