To mark international women's day 2017, many of Lebanon's women's rights activists, including students, writers, and a large group of leading feminist NGOs will be uniting for a march that begins at Achrafieh's Sassine square this Saturday, at 12:00PM.
The groups will be uniting to march for women's rights in a country plagued by an unjust patriarchal system.
Why are women demanding change in Lebanon?
As poet, journalist and university professor Akel Al Aweet brilliantly put it in his latest article for Annahar, this day marks a shameful admission from every human being around the world that women's rights have not yet been won and their situation in Lebanon and across many Arab countries remains unjust and at times even devastating.
There are many demands behind this march as the list of issues that women have to face in Lebanon on a daily basis is literally endless and includes:
1. Lack of political representation in parliament
Women in Lebanon have always been marginalized when it comes to politics. Even though women were granted the right to vote in 1952, the percentage of their representation in every parliament ever since has always been exceptionally low.
In the absence of a quota law (one is currently being debated but has yet to be passed) a rise in the percentage of women representation in the parliament cannot be guaranteed.
The national coalition is currently demanding a 30 percent of the parliament's seats while many organizations and activists including Al Owaet are calling for a 50/50 quota law to be passed.
2. Personal Status laws are based on religion
This makes it incredibly difficult to have clear cut laws on crucial issues including: underage marriage, divorce and child custody.
Under the existing system underage marriage is still a debatable matter and custody battles end up in religious courts (that do not recognize joint custody rights) and are therefore often separating mothers from their children or in the best cases serving them unjust custody arrangements.
And what would happen if a woman defies a religious court ruling? She could end up in jail as was the case with Fatima Hamza who refused to hand over her son to his father after she lost her custody battle in a Jaafari court.
These issues reflect the plight of thousands of Lebanese women who have long been demanding that a civil law be passed to govern personal status issues rather than having them referred to religious courts where women's rights are often disregarded.
3. Citizenship law issues
If a Lebanese woman is married to a foreigner, the citizenship law strips her from the right to pass her nationality on to her children.
This leaves children unable to access the most basic education and healthcare services and renders them second class citizens in their own country.
For years activists have been demanding a change in this law, to no avail.
4. Violence against women
Reports on domestic violence across Lebanon in 2016 uncovered the fact that 44% of Lebanese people know a victim of domestic abuse.
Patriarchy is so deep seated in Lebanese society and in many other Arab societies, making it extremely difficult for female victims of domestic abuse to come forward.
If and when they do, they are often blamed for the abuse and shamed for bringing humiliation to their families in societies where men are always considered right.
In Lebanon, organizations like KAFA and several others have been diligently fighting against the social stigma that domestic abuse victims often face and have also been demanding that the already existing domestic protection law be properly enforced.
5. The Lebanese penal code is unjust when it comes to women's rights
Before 'Abaad' and other legal activists/feminist movements in Lebanon demanded a change in article 552 of the Lebanese code, a rapist was able to escape punishment if they married their victim.
According to 'Abaad' changes in the law are in the works and will lead to results but there are still more steps ahead before it is finalized.
This is a move in the right direction for women across Lebanon and signals an even more important fight ahead for more expansive changes in the Lebanese penal code as a whole.
It's about time for change to become a possibility
In her latest article, 'this is how we turn the tables', feminist writer and journalist Joumana Haddad, who is also running for the upcoming parliamentary elections writes 'you can create a democratic, civil, actual, realistic revolution, right on ground'.
That truly is a possibility today.
One that has been paved for by recent positive achievements that several NGO's and female activists in the country have made. Their work is a symbol of the fact that in the face of unjust patriarchal systems, silence is not an option, the only option is to be vocal, active and loud. The only option is to start.