Women's situation

The Lebanese legal system is relatively progressive in terms of women’s rights compared to other countries in the region. The Lebanese constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. However, in practice, women are discriminated against in several areas and there is widespread ignorance about women’s rights.

The war in Syria has had a major impact on Lebanon as well. The number of Syrian refugees has increased drastically and for a long time there has been a political deadlock in the country. Elections for parliament were supposed to be held in 2013, but have now been postponed several times, and is now planned for 2017. Lebanon is experiencing a turbulent situation, which has made it more difficult to get those in power to prioritize women’s rights.

The situation for women are different in Lebanon and a women´s ability to have power over her own life is much depended on what kind of family she lives in. Some women are limited by discriminatory values and traditions while others have a lot more freedom, but face discrimination when they encounter problems that require legal intervention.

They have been able to vote since 1952, but the representation of women in politics is very low. Indeed they hold just 3 percent of parliamentary seats.

Financial dependency

There has been a steady improvement in women’s access to health care and education, and literacy rates are good for both men and women. However, although women generally have a high level of education, very few of them have jobs. In 2011, only 23 percent of Lebanese women aged over 15 years were in work, compared to 77 percent of men. Married women are often financially dependent on their husbands and their families, which reduces their possibilities of influencing family life and society.

In Lebanon’s governmental system, power is divided between representatives of 18 religious communities. All cases relating to family law ­– concerning marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance – are dealt with in religious courts. Many of these laws discriminate against women. For example, in some courts a woman’s testimony is not weighted as heavily as a man’s and it is difficult for both men and women to have the right to divorce.

Violence against women is a widespread and serious issue that has tended to be accepted. However, after increased attention the last couple of years on its horrible effects, public opinion has started to sway. In 2014, after many years of hard work by the women’s movement, Lebanon adopted a law against domestic violence. Originally, the law also forbade marital rape, but after pressure from the religious associations, this article was deleted, something that the women’s movement now is pushing for to amend. Parts of the women’s movement is cooperating with the Lebanon police force to make sure that the law is implemented correctly.

The legal penalty for adultery is more severe for women than for men, and abortion is prohibited unless the mother’s life is in danger. Lebanese citizenship can only be inherited from Lebanese men. A Lebanese woman is not entitled to pass on her citizenship to neither her children, nor her spouse.

Homosexuality illegal

Acts of homosexuality are illegal and punishable by up to one year in prison. It is even more difficult for women to declare themselves to be homosexual/bisexual/transgender. LGBTQ persons risk being disowned by their families, which means that these people must be socially and financially independent, something that is true for far fewer women than men.

Trafficking and discrimination of Migrant Workers

Human trafficking for sexual exploitation is a major problem and it is also difficult to curb, due to a lack of information and political interest. In addition, a large number of migrant women in Lebanon are working as cleaners and housekeepers under slave-like conditions. There is not much public information about this issue either, and neither politicians nor the public take much interest in it.

Discrimination of refugee women                   

Since 2011, more than a million people have fled from Syria to Lebanon to escape the ongoing conflict. Many of them are deeply traumatised. Most refugee women have very little or no chance to support themselves or their children, and are totally dependent on humanitarian aid. Many are victims of sexual violence and abuse, especially young girls. Forced and early marriages have become increasingly common, since families are unable to support themselves.

Palestinians living in refugee camps are another vulnerable group in Lebanon. They are very isolated and have never been granted citizenship or the same civil rights as Lebanese citizens. Palestinian refugee women face discrimination on three grounds: gender, refugee status and statelessness.

Senast uppdaterad: 2016-08-03