Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lebanon to protest rape law

Nasawiya, a collective of feminists working on gender justice in Lebanon, is organizing and mobilizing for a January 14 march against Lebanon’s antiquated rape law.

The march, according to Nasawiya, will be to demand the following:
  • We, the women who reside in Lebanon, excuse ourselves from playing the decorative role that has been imposed on us. 
  • We take to the streets today to say that we are aware and knowledgeable about the methodical war that state and society have waged on our bodies and our safety through their political parties and leaders. 
  • From now on, we will not accept empty promises that are heaped upon us every time we call for our rights.
  • We will not give in to patience. We will not bite our wounds and postpone the battles of today to tomorrow. 
  • Our voices will be louder than the bickering between your parties and your sporadic yet connected wars.

Nasawiya also calls on Parliament to: 
  • Pass the draft law for Protection from Domestic Violence as it has been written and with no delay. 
  • Intensify punitive measures against rapists and those who attempt rape, amending the respective law. 
  • Treat verbal harassment as physical harassment, especially in the workplace, making it a crime subject to judicial penalties. 
  • 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 at night, by ensuring proper street-lighting, and allowing us to carry tools of self-defense, like taser guns and pepper spray.
  • We extend this invitation to all women and girls who have been exposed to rape or attempted rape or harassment in all its forms, to all so-called “housewives” that have been subjected to beating and verbal abuse, to all those employees, teachers, activists, workers and union leaders who experience sexual abuse time and time again, and to all those who feel the injustice and lack of equality.
  • The march starts at 12 p.m. at the Interior Ministry near Sanayeh Garden and will proceed to Parliament at Nejmeh Square.
  • We women no longer possess anything but solidarity with one another. We must stand shoulder to shoulder and unite. What lies before us is the last of our battles: the defense of our rights, bodies and security. 
  • We have nothing to lose but our chains. The time is now.
For Nasawiya, a collective of feminist activists means not having a traditional NGO structure of boards, staff, and volunteers. It is a member-driven collective where everyone is equal and supports the other’s activism. “We believe we are stronger together,” it says.

Nasawiya believes:
  1. Sexism --  a devastating result of the feudal/patriarchal culture that we live in -- is a major social problem that we should work to eradicate, especially since it is deeply related to other social problems, such as classism, heterosexism, capitalism, racism, sectarianism, etc. Therefore, we must fight all forms of violence, discrimination, and exploitation that are based on gender, sexuality, able-bodiedness, ethnicity, race, religion, class, etc.
  2. As women, we have the right to a positive self-image and an emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy life.
  3. As women, we have the right to our bodies and our sexualities. In other words, women should be free to express their sexuality, free to make a choice about engaging or not engaging in sexual acts and/or relationships, free to choose whether they want to marry or not, whether they want to undergo an abortion or not. Women must also have easier access to helpful and non-judgmental sexual health services, as well as sexual education.
  4. We must work to eliminate all forms of harassment, and all forms of gender-based violence, verbal, physical, and sexual, wherever they happen.
  5. All women should have equal rights of employment, and equal treatment and pay in the workplace.
  6. Women should be encouraged to enter the fields of study and work that are currently dominated by men, such as sciences, sports, etc.
  7. Domestic migrant workers are employees and should have all the rights of employment, starting with respect and equality.
  8. We have a responsibility to be smart consumers since what we buy and where we buy from are political as well as personal choices that affect us all.
  9. We should encourage women to start women-friendly, workers-friendly and environmentally friendly small businesses. Women must play an active role in the political process, and lead the way in political reform.
  10. Women must have all their citizenship rights.
  11. Women must assume more leadership roles, in the private and public spheres, to reflect their central role in their communities.
  12. We have to promote feminist art, women-friendly media, and women’s studies courses and institutes.
  13. We should respect our natural environment, as exploitation of nature is parallel to the exploitation of women.
  14. We should support other feminists in the Arab world, the global south and the rest of the world, who are working towards a similar vision of a better world.
If you are in Lebanon, do join the march on January 14, spread the word and support in any way you can.

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