Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stand Up For Lebanese Women: March Against Unjust Laws Governing Rape

Happy new year LOVEanese! It's an exciting time for me for many reasons, but one of these is that I'm FINALLY starting to analyze my results (we all know how busy we get with the holidays... I'm on Lebanese time).  

Although I'm starting this post on a light note, the content of it is not light or funny at all. I posted this on the LOVEanon Facebook account this week, check it out

 "I'm trying to help out Nasawiya and [KAFA and] spread this around. I'll blog this week and also talk about it. Singles, boyfriends, girlfriends, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends, cousins... it's so important that we all stand up together for this issue because it affects all of us. Come out, spread the word, support it, and protest the rampant and unjust public, de jure discrimination against our women!" (It was in reference to this post calling on bloggers to spread the word).  

First of all, Nasawiya is a Lebanese feminist collective. Don't let the title make you judgmental, however (i.e., throw out any negative stereotypes of feminism you might have). After all, men can be feminists too, and feminism even benefits men! (there's a great article Fawwaz Traboulsi wrote on this same topic, especially geared towards the Arab world). Check out Nasawiya's "About Us" for a real definition of feminism and what they do, and see their values. They provide voice to Lebanese women, offer resources, connect groups and networks, and stand up to sexism and patriarchy. KAFA is a similar NGO, "work[ing] towards eradicating all forms of gender-based violence and exploitation of women and children." You can read about their mission here.
Second of all.. what exactly is this that I'm advocating for? An event? A movement? Simple: it's both:

Lebanese law currently gives few rights to women, especially if those laws apply to rape (in general) and marital rape. Check out this section from From a Freedom House report (taken from Matt Nash at the NOW Lebanon Blog): "Lebanese laws that criminalize rape tend to be lenient toward men and do not apply to marital relationships. Marital rape is not considered a crime in Lebanon. Women's groups are actively advocating for changes to laws that provide weak sentences for perpetrators of sex crimes, such as Article 522, which declares that the state will not prosecute a rapist and will nullify his conviction if the rapist marries his victim. The sentence for rape, according to Article 503, is forced labor for at least five years or for at least seven years if the victim is under 15 years of age. Article 518 sentences a man who seduces a virgin into intercourse with the intent of marriage and then recants to six months in jail and/or a fine. Little research has been done on the prevalence of rape or marital rape in Lebanese society."

What Nasawiya is doing is spearheading a campaign and a march that challenges this head-on, calling for the Lebanese Parliament to:

1. "Pass the draft law for Protection from Domestic Violence as it has been written and with no delay."

2. "Intensify punitive measures against rapists and those who attempt rape, amending the respective law."

3. "Treat verbal harassment as physical harassment, especially in the workplace, making it a crime subject to judicial penalties."

4. "Deal with complaints related to sexual violence with rigor and consistency. We call on the Interior Ministry and the Municipalities to also apply those measures. The three bodies should work to make our streets and neighborhoods safe, especially during the night-time, by ensuring proper street-lighting, and permitting us to carry tools of self-defense (like taser guns and pepper spray)."

You can check out their Facebook event here with information in both Arabic and English (which is where these points are found). Come out to the march on January 14th. It begins at 12:00 PM, and will go from the Interior Ministry near Sanayeh Gardens, and move toward the Parliament at Najmeh Square in Downtown Beirut.

That is not the only thing I am asking, however. What I am asking is to not merely just come out and support them, but to look at the bigger picture. As I mentioned in the Facebook post, we all have mothers, sisters (figuratively and by blood), grandmothers, great grandmothers, aunts, female cousins, female friends, female colleagues, and some of us have girlfriends, wives, and daughters. We are all affected by this, by these laws. These are the women, the friends, the family we have relationships with, that we date, that we marry... that we love.

Tell me that if someone ever attacked them, violated them, raped them, beat them,
you would look ANY of these women in the eye, and tell them it would be ok because it's not a big deal. Their rights, Their feelings, their lives are not important. This IS what the Lebanese law currently states! 

NONE of us should stand for these sexist, misogynistic, immoral, wrong, degrading laws STAND UP FOR IT! ESPECIALLY if you're a man, because we are part of both the problem and the solution. By saying nothing, you are saying that you agree. By not speaking out, you're saying that you are comfortable with the status quo. But if that's how you feel, DO NOT hide behind fake machismo, guns, politicians, unjust laws, or empty rhetoric! As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said in a speech: "A time comes when silence is betrayal."

"Gender equality will come when men become part of the solution!"

Join our Lebanese sisters; fight for equality and justice, speak out; spread the love,

-Ogie (a proud feminist!)

P.S. I thought this was a great addition:

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