The women's movement

The women’s movement in Lebanon emerged in the late 1800s, when women started to make demands for increased rights. Women founded organisations that offered information, vocational training and health care to other women.

During the 1900s, women were on several occasions involved in freedom struggles together with men. However, each uprising has been followed by setbacks for the women’s movement, when sectarian interests and the importance of political stability have been used as arguments for women’s rights to be sidelined.

The strong and active women’s movement has been similarly affected by the armed conflicts that have ravaged Lebanon, in particular the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) and the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. Every war has resulted in the women’s movement being pushed further down the agenda.

Progress after Arab Spring

Women’s rights have not improved significantly since the 2006 war, but the uprisings of the so called Arab Spring in 2011 did result in a step forward for the women’s movement. Women’s organisations launched several campaigns, many of which focused on strengthening women’s political participation.

Compared to other countries in the region, the freedom to organise has been relatively good in Lebanon. Two of the women’s movement’s most important issues are women’s citizenship rights and gender-based violence.

For several years, the women’s movement conducted an extensive campaign – initiated by Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation KAFA – to increase women’s protection against domestic violence. Many NGOs have advocated for the Lebanese parliament to pass a law that criminalises domestic violence. Preparations of a draft law began as early as 2007 and in spite of harsh resistance from religious leaders and politicians, the law was finally adopted in 2014.

Religious leaders involved

Several women’s rights organisations provide abused women with helplines, shelters and legal aid. They have carried out major advocacy and media campaigns to raise awareness about violence against women, and some of them have even involved religious leaders to reach as wide an audience as possible.

A number of organisations have taken an active interest in the situation facing LGBTQ persons. The Meem organisation was founded in 2008, to provide support to women from this group. The following year a demonstration for LGBTQ persons’ rights was held in Beirut, the first of its kind in the Arab world. However, organisations working for LGBTQ rights have to be discreet, since these subjects are generally taboo and not accepted by society at large, particular in rural areas outside of capitals.

Support to refugee women

Since 1948, the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine has affected Lebanon in many ways. The Palestinians and Syrians that have fled and sought refuge in Lebanon are very vulnerable and receive support from different women’s organisations.

A number of Lebanese women’s organisations work in Palestinian refugee camps. They are trying to break the isolation faced by refugee women and they provide them with psychosocial support and information about women’s rights. Similarly, an increasing number of organisations are getting involved in the situation facing Syrian refugee women and they are trying to offer them both humanitarian aid and access to safe meeting places.

Senast uppdaterad: 2016-08-03