It is a classic example of how being liberal in comparison with the very low bar set in most of the Arab world is mistaken for being truly liberal.
A Pew study in 2014 showed both how liberal Lebanon is in comparison with its Arab neighbors - and how conservative it is in comparison with the West - with this simple question:
49% of Lebanese felt that women should be able to dress however they want, and 51% felt they should cover at least most of their hair.
This is hardly "liberal."
Similarly, in Lebanon there is a law that a rapist can go free if he marries his victim. This causes conservative families to often pressure their daughters to marry their rapists in order to avoid social stigma.
That is hardly "liberal."
A 2013 Now Lebanon article by Michelle Ghoussoub, titled "The Myth of Lebanese Liberalism," sums it up:
Yes, in Lebanon, we don’t have it all that bad. We can drive, dress as we like, study what we wish and have successful and fulfilling careers. But these norms should not be hailed as some kind of liberal victory, but rather, as minimal requirements for a state that at least tries to manage itself democratically. These so-called modern practices did nothing to help Roula Yaacoub when she was brutally murdered, allegedly by a husband who beat her regularly, and who remains a free man.A new article in Now Lebanon points out that things are even worse - men can murder their wives for "honor" reasons without worrying too much about any consequences:
It frankly doesn’t mean much that women can dress provocatively and order a drink when their husbands can also legally rape them. Nor should we feel empowered by our right to date freely (within our religions, of course) when any woman who has lost her virginity is treated as damaged goods, or worse.
Lebanon has truly become (or has always been) a dangerous place for women. In recent years, Lebanon’s media began covering cases of women murdered by their spouses, and the frequency of the occurrence of violence against women revealed a pattern associated with deeply rooted patriarchal sentiments. And if being murdered by the person you vowed to share your life with isn’t tragic enough, in most cases, the judicial system did not deliver justice for the victims. The Lebanese public never knew the depth of the problem our society faces with unpunished domestic violence and the long-standing tradition of honor killings – which was, until recently, permissible by law. The following is a recap of some of the cases that made us aware of the injustices against women in our country and that also sparked public outrage over the judicial system’s handling of violence against women.This is the best place to be a woman in the Arab world.
...Manal Assi was brutally murdered by her husband. After Manal confronted her husband about his marriage to another woman, he began to beat her with everything in sight – including kitchen utensils, cleaning equipment, tables and chairs. The doctor’s report mentioned serious injuries in almost every part of Manal’s body, and her husband confessed to calling her mother and having her watch her daughter being beaten to death. On July 16, the husband was given a “light sentence” of 5 years in prison for his crime. According to the sentence, Manal had “cheated” on her husband which made him angry and forced him to brutally kill her. The honor killing – which has been illegal in Lebanon since 2011 – was being revived in a completely shameful decision that ignored the violence Manal had endured for years at the hands of her husband. Tuesday is the deadline for the court to consider appealing the decision and KAFA is organizing a protest Tuesday morning to pressure the court.
Around Lebanon, many other women share a similar story. Crystal Abou Shakra was poisoned to death by her ex-husband, who she had divorced due to his acts of violence towards her. Again, her ex-husband was not indicted due to “lack of evidence.” Roqaya Monzer was shot at point blank by her husband when she asked for divorce due to his violent behavior. Zahraa Al-Qabout also faced a similar fate. This past week, a new victim was added to the list. Maymouna Abou Alaylah was murdered by her husband who reportedly used the glass that forms the base of the hookah to strike her on the head and then stabbing her repeatedly with a knife. These are just some of the cases that have been reported and the frightening reality is that many more cases are undisclosed.
The real battle here is that the killers of the women mentioned above are not paying for their crimes. The only way for this madness to stop is for justice to be served. These men knew beforehand that will not suffer the consequences of their actions in a country like Lebanon, which embraces patriarchy and suffers massively from corruption in its institutions. This unique and unfortunate alliance between corruption and sexism is why Lebanon is a dangerous place for women.
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