LEBANON: Acitivists Criticize Absence of Women in New Cabinet

Monday, June 13, 2011
The Daily Star
Western Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Feminists and activists criticized the absence of women in Prime Minister Najib Mikati's new Cabinet Monday.

At a time when women's issues have gained momentum in Lebanon, with the approval of several legal amendments toward women's rights, activists described the new Cabinet as a step back for gender equality.

“We hoped to see women in the [Cabinet] and we consider this be to be a step back for us,” Zoya Rouhana, head of the organization KAFA (Enough Violence and Exploitation), told The Daily Star Monday, adding that the new lineup reinforces the weak participation of women in political life.

There were two women in former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Cabinet: the finance minister and one state minister.

Nadine Moawad, an activist on gender equality issues, voiced concern over the latest Cabinet lineup and slammed the alienation of women from Lebanon's political life.

“Needless to say the women's movement rejects this total alienation of women from the Cabinet and in the Lebanese political arena in general,” Nadine wrote on her blog an hour after Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced the Hezbollah-led Cabinet lineup.

“[The appointed ministers] are the same old men who have been major players in the political vacuum in the country,” Moawad told The Daily Star.

Aside from the Cabinet falling short on representing women in the Cabinet, Moawad also said that social issues, including those affecting women, could end up shelved, as the new majority would be too busy engaging in political bickering.

“I think this new Cabinet will be so busy dealing with attacks from [the] March 14 [coalition], it won't have time to tackle issues such as electricity, water, women's issues or youth issues,” Moawad said, adding that this was a critical time for women as many amendments to Lebanon's penal code await a parliamentary vote.

Last month, women's rights groups celebrated the approval of many legal amendments by parliamentary committees to repeal the so-called "honor killing law," amend laws on maternity leave, and remove gender differentiation on laws surrounding social security tax and inheritance. However, these amendments require a majority vote by the Parliament to be passed.

The Parliament has not convened since the March 8 alliance ministers resigned from former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Cabinet, forcing its collapse.

Mouawad also criticized the appointment of Faisal Karami as the new minister of youth and sports following his comments Saturday in which he described the draft law to protect women from domestic violence as a blow to family values.

“What we are asking for is the basics, especially in terms of drafting a law that would protect women from domestic violence, we want women to simply report the abuse and go to the police … but they have accused us of destroying the family,” Moawad said.