All Rights reserved
Lebanese NGO Forum
Women's Rights Monitor Project
Beirut, March 2000

Refer to source upon partial or total usage of this report






Draft of Initial Report / March 2000


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts in its first article, that all human beings are born free, equal in dignity and rights and are all entitled to enjoy all freedoms stated in the declaration , without any discrimination , including discrimination based on sex .

This declaration, together with the United Nations instruments and the international resolutions calling for the achievement of equality between women and men, in particular the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) , is striving to eliminate laws, traditions and customs establishing discrimination based on sex and contradicting with the third millennium.

Accordingly, CEDAW was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 18/12/1979 as an international treaty ensuring Human Rights and in the same comprehensiveness, it constitutes the best framework to ensure for women total equality with men in order to achieve the development process.

In Lebanon, the convention entered into force on July 24th, 1996, under law no. 572. Through this accession, the Lebanese government was bound to achieve the policy of eliminating all forms of discrimination against women and undertook the commitment to prepare reports pursuant to article 18 of the convention, for the purpose of ensuring the enforcement of the convention provisions.

However, the accession of the Lebanese government to the convention was bound to the condition of having reservations about some of its articles: articles 9, 16 and 29. Whereas the convention establishes that states accession to the convention with reservations is a temporary procedure that enables them to undertake necessary measures to achieve the full implementation of all the articles of the convention and therefore lift all the reservations.

In spite of the fact that Lebanon has finally ratified the convention, an overall look on its true state of affairs, and specifically on its legistations and the dealing of its public and private institutions with women, shows the amount of violations affecting the convention. And despite the development reached during the last years concerning the elimination of some prejudiced provisions in respect to women, the Lebanese laws are still discriminating between men and women, especially in the personal status, nationality, labor, security and penal laws. Lebanese women would have only obtained some of their rights and would be setting their hopes on the new regime in order to achieve their rights. They still need, in practice, an acknowledgment on the part of society and officials of their capabilities, faculties and role in various fields like in the centers of social, economic and political decision making.

In the last four years following the accession of Lebanon, the government has not proceeded, until now, to lift the reservations that bound its accession, and subsequently, it hasn’t established the principle of equality between men and women. The long war that had inundated the nation and society could be the reason of delay.

In this report, we shall present women’s situation in Lebanon during the last years, as follows:


1STThe legal framework for women’s situation.

2nd – The obstacles encountered in the full implementation of the convention.

3rd – The mechanisms adopted to implement the convention.

4th –The achievements carried out in Lebanon till now.

II – Women in political and public life.

  • Women’s right in political and public participation.
  • Women in political participation.
  • Women and strikes.
  • Women in the legislative, executive and public power.
  • Women in the judicial corps.
  • Women in government representation and in the participation on the international level.
  • The right of women in voting and candidacy.
  • Women and nationality.
  • Women and economy.

III – Women and Education.

  1. Women and education in the Lebanese laws.
  2. Women and illiteracy.
  3. Women in curricula and book making.
  4. Women in the teaching profession.

IV – Women and Labor.

  1. Women and the laws and regulations of employees and procedure.
  2. Women and the labor law.
  3. Women and the Social Security law.
  4. Women and the terrestrial trade law.

V – Women and equality in health care.

  • The situation of women in health cares.
  • Women and health services. What are available achievements?
  • Women and AIDS.
  • Women and abortion.
  • Women in health work.
  • VI – Rural Women.

    1. Rural women and (CEDAW) convention.
    2. The obstacles encountering the development of rural women.
    3. Rural women in health care.

    VII – Women in marriage and Family laws.

    1. Women and personal status.
    2. Women and the rights and responsibilities during marriage.
    3. Women in the dissolution of marriage and divorce and its consequences.
    4. The rights and obligations of the father and mother.
    5. Women and inheritance.

    VIII – Women and violence.

    1. Violence in Lebanon.
    2. Laws regulating family relations (personal status) and violence against women.
    3. The penal law and violence against women.
    4. The impracticability of implementing the law.
    5. The achievements carried out in Lebanon
    6. Violence in the mass media.

    IX – Women and the struggle against their exploitation.

    1. Women and Prostitution.


1STThe legal framework for the situation of women (article 1): women’s rights are governed by the provisions of the constitution, the international conventions ratified by Lebanon and the laws in effect.

1- Women and the Lebanese constitution

The Constitution is the basic instrument determining the regime of government. It was issued on May 23rd 1926 and underwent several amendments. The major ones are: those of 9/1/1943, at the time of independence, after a period of French mandate, and the ones of 21/9/1990 pursuant to a constitutional law based on Taef Treaty that has put an end to the Lebanese war. The Lebanese constitution is the top of hierarchy for the Lebanese laws. The constitutional provisions are considered as a security for the protection and respect of Human Rights; this was set forth in the preamble of the constitution that was annexed pursuant to the conditional law of 21/9/1990. It constitutes a fundamental legal support for women’s rights in two paragraphs of its clauses: Paragraph "b" in which Lebanon is bound to the Charter of the United Nations, its covenants and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, provided that the state should incorporate these principles in every field and domain without any exception; and paragraph "c", where it is set forth that Lebanon is a democratic parliamentary Republic, based on the respect of public freedoms, on top of them the freedom of opinion and belief, on social equity and on equality in rights and obligations between all citizens without any discrimination or preference. There is no discrimination against women in the Lebanese constitution. Nevertheless, this latter does not expressly set forth equality between women and men as other constitutions do. It acknowledges total equality before law between all citizens without any discrimination. The principle of equality was also stated in article 7 of the constitution. It is stipulated that: " All Lebanese citizens are equal before the law, they enjoy equality in civil and political rights and they assume duties and responsibilities without any difference between them."

Article 12 of the constitution states as well that: " Every Lebanese citizen has the right to be in charge of public functions. No distinction shall be made except in respect to merit and qualification according to the conditions set forth by the law."

As for article 21, it stipulates that " every Lebanese citizen aged 21 years old has the right to be elector provided, however, that he (or she) fulfills the conditions required by virtue of the Election law ". The election laws have not made any distinction between women and men since 1952. The provisions of the constitution ensure public freedoms for both women and men.

  • Article 8 of the constitution ensures personal freedom.
  • Article 8 and 9: emphasis on equality before the law and the respect of personal freedom and freedom of belief.
  • Article 10: Freedom of education.
  • Article 12: exhibition of freedom of opinion by word and writing, freedom of printing, freedom of assembly and freedom of association, all ensured in the scope of law.

1-Women and International conventions:

Lebanon is a founder and active member in the United Nations Organization and bound by its covenants and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Lebanon has participated fundamentally in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through Dr. Charles Malek who was a member of the tripartite committee that drafted the declaration.

- The international conventions ratified by Lebanon and affecting women’s rights:

Lebanon has ratified the following conventions issued by the United Nations Organization regarding women’s rights:

  • The convention concerning women’s political rights issued in 1953 and ratified by Lebanon in 1955.
  • The convention issued in 1960 by UNESCO regarding non-discrimination in the field of education and ratified by Lebanon in 1964.
  • The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that was issued in 1979 and ratified by Lebanon in 1996. Lebanon made reserves in respect of Article 9 paragraph 2, article 16 clause 1 paragraph c and d and article 29 as aforementioned.
  • Lebanon has also ratified the conventions issued by the International Labor Organization (ILO) that concern women directly.
  • The convention about engaging women in the labor underground of 1937, ratified by Lebanon in 1946.
  • The convention on the policy of employment of 1964 ratified by Lebanon in 1977.
  • The International conventions concerning women that Lebanon has not ratified:
  • The conventions issued by the United Nations Organization :
  • The facultative protocol annexed to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (1999).
  • The convention regarding the prohibition of people trafficking and the exploitation of others’ prostitution of 1949, and the complementary convention of 1956.
  • The convention regarding the nationality of married women of 1957.
  • The convention concerning the consent in marriage, minimum age and registration of marriage of 1962.
  • The convention issued by the International Labor Organization.
  • The convention concerning the protection of Motherhood in 1955.
  • The convention on paid education leaves of 1974.
  • The ILO convention for farmers in 1975.
  • The convention of workers with family responsibilities of 1981.

3-The positive Lebanese laws and women:

The general law is free from any discrimination against women and complies with the convention provisions. The constitutional law does not encompass any discrimination against women, and the election law ensuing from it, is in compliance with the principle of equality.

Through its provisions, the administrative law complies with the principle of equality.

As for the sections of the private law, there are still provisions discriminating against women and contradicting with the provision of " the convention " that we shall display later on in the other parts of the report.

2nd : The Obstacles encountered in the full implementation of the convention ( the reservations )

At the time of its ratification and implementation in Lebanon, the convention encountered several obstacles and difficulties, among which we shall mention the following:

The Legal obstacles:

The Legal obstacles are the Lebanese laws in effect that are in contradiction with the provisions of the present convention and that have required making reservations on some of its clauses. The most important ones are the Various and sanctioned Personal status laws that regulate conjugal relations and inheritance. These laws have required making reservations on article 16 of the convention and consequently, they discriminate against women. These laws discriminate against women and this particular discrimination applies also to women’s life in general. The Lebanese Nationality law discriminates also against women and has required making reserves on articles 9, paragraph 2 of the convention regarding the right of Lebanese women to grant the nationality to their children.

As for the other obstacles encountering the implementation of the convention, they lie in the various problems brought up by them; we shall settle for mentioning the headings:

  • The problem of cultural and religious particularity.
  • The problem of the supremacy of law or mentalities.
  • The problem of positive discrimination.
  • The problem of the governing political system and its relationship with human rights and democracy.
  • The problem of women’s movement.
  • The problem of financing.

3rd : The mechanism adopted to implement the convention in Lebanon and to protect women’s rights:

The mechanisms that protect women’s rights in Lebanon, at the moment, and that have been interacting and growing with the preparation for and the participation in Beijing conference are distributed into three levels:

The national level.

The official and public level.

The international and regional level.

1- The national level:

This sector has played the major role in the incitement to ratify the convention and in the follow up of its enforcement. NGOs, on their part, have made voluntary, continuous and hard efforts to abolish discrimination against women, to work towards protecting, rehabilitating and assisting women and expanding awareness among the population. Women’s rights have never been a priority for the Lebanese government, and the successive governments are still unaware of the position of women and their importance in building a democratic society.

The participation of NGOs is mostly reliable. We shall only mention the names of women’s and Human rights associations that are the most concerned in ratifying and implementing the convention:

  • The Lebanese association for human rights.
  • The National committee for pursuing women’s affairs.
  • Women’s Council.
  • The council to resist violence against women.
  • The institution of René Mohawad.
  • People’s Rights movement.
  • The institution of Joseph and Laure Moghayzel.
  • Women studies institute (LAU).
  • The Democratic Lebanese Union for women.
  • Human Rights institute - Beirut Bar association.
  • Lebanese Non-Governmental Organizations Forum.

There are other associations that have participated by adhering to the aforementioned federal organizations.

2- The official Public Level:

The claim put in by NGOs for women’s representation on a high level was fulfilled in 1996 when a decree was issued to form a national committee presided over by the first lady and with the membership of nines ladies. In 1998, the law no. 720 was passed, establishing the national organization for women affairs constituted by the said decree, presided over by the first lady with the membership of 24 ladies and an executive bureau of eight members.

This law elevate women’s official representation, links the organization directly to the prime ministry and grants it executive and coordinating attributions and a special budget in order to plan a national strategy and work towards its enforcement. This step remains an advanced stage of increasing the level of women’s representation in the official sector and it is mainly the duty of the organization to fallow up the enforcement of the convention as it has got the decision, attribution and budget. It should be noted that the committee and then the national organization have endeavored to implement the convention, based on the national sector’s struggle and participation and supported by official & international institutions.

3- The international regional level

Lebanon has not yet submitted the report stipulated in article 18, provided that it should be submitted within one year of the implementation of the convention by the specific state. However, a report was accomplished by the committee along with the national organization in the stage of preparing the national report on the grounds that the state represents that there should be a joint report on the part of the state along with NGOs. UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) started its activity in the region in 1994, within the preparations for the conference of Beijing and it is working on the implementation of the convention in Lebanon on three main lines:

The economic enablement program, the power and government program, the power and government program and the Human rights program.

This programs shall be carried out along with public institutions and the national sector supported by ESCWA, UNDP, UNICEF and lately by the European Union.

4th : The achievements carried out in Lebanon till now ?

- The legislative achievements carried out before ratifying the convention:

In 1974, the administrative measure of the Department of Internal Security that prevented women from getting a passport without their husbands’ permission was abolished. In 1993, women’s capacity in testimony in land register was recognized. In 1994, married women’s capacity to exercise trade without their husband’s permission was recognized, yet this reserve was not applicable in practice. In 1994, the right of women officers working in the diplomatic corps and married to foreigners to keep on doing their tasks without transferring them to central administration was acknowledged. In 1995, married women’s capacity to life insurance contracts was recognized. It should be also noted that the Lebanese Legislation is relatively new so that women’s capacity to manage their funds and to dispose of them is not affected by femininity. And marriage, in Lebanon, doesn’t impact upon the spouses funds as there is no common arrangement for funds and every spouse remains free to dispose of his (her) funds without any impact on those of the other. Eventually, in 1996 the convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women was ratified.

It constitutes the major accomplishment ever made for women despite the reserves that must be levied.

- The achievements that have been carried out since the ratification of the convention on the legislative level:

The partial amendment of article 562 of the penal code concerning what is called " honor crimes ". This amendment should be considered half an achievement as although it amends the conditions of benefiting by the articles, it preserves the principle of honor crimes.

The law no. 7 passed on February 20th, 1999 and published in the official journal on 25/2/1999 abolished the provision of article 562 and replaced it with a new provision. This amendment nullifies the permissible plea and dubious situation, yet it preserves the principle of killing women by family men members, which is incompatible with article 2 paragraph (g) of the convention. When considering such a crime, the judicial authorities should not apply this article, according to article 2 of the procedure law that makes international conventions predominate internal laws.

- The achievements carried out on the personal status level:

Lebanon has made reserves on article 16 that governs the personal status. Attempts to recommend a uniform civil law for personal status were launched in 1974. In 1994 an amended recommendation with an optional formula was submitted. The cabinet has ratified an optional civil bill presented by the president but was not submitted to the parliament, which is contradictory to the rules.

- Other achievements.

The basics law of the National Organization:

On October 4th, 1998, the cabinet ratified law no. 720 that decreed the establishment of the National Organization.

Parliamentary committees cooperate to achieve equality between men & women:

The parliamentary committee for bylaw and human rights has proceeded to legislative cooperation since it enrolled in its agenda, in October 1999, the issue of amending biased laws vis à vis of Lebanese women. It assigned to the committee for administration and justice the task of examining five draft laws in order to amend the law trade law, the penal law, the social security law, the system of benefits and services, the system of scholarships in the civil servants cooperative and the labor law.

II – Women in public life (politics and economics) (articles 7,8,9,13 and 15).

1- Women’s right in political public participation

Article 12 of the Lebanese constitution stipulates that every Lebanese citizen is entitled to occupy public offices without any discrimination other than merit…

Lebanon is parliamentary republic based on a free economic system and its parliamentary regime, set forth in the convention and protected by laws, permits a large participation in the political life among citizens. Neither the constitution nor the civil law discriminates between women and men concerning their political rights.

In Lebanon, laws put women and men on the same footing concerning citizenship rights, yet in practice, women’s political participation remains inferior, subordinate and marginal. The proportion of women’s participation in political and public life varies from region to another. In the popular milieus, this participation is limited by the opinion the husband, father or brother. Women haven’t reached yet a free participation in political life all over the Lebanese areas. Statistics prove that women constitute 51% of the national population while the percentage of their representation in the centers of decision making does not exceed 5%, whereas men constitute 95% of such representation.

2- Women in political participation:

Women and political parties.

The percentage of women members of political parties is still very low and, in the best cases, it doesn’t reach more than 20% of men’s number. As we have already mentioned, women’s participation in politics, in Lebanon, still suffers from men’s influence on the exercise of women’s freedoms and political choices.

Although most of the Lebanese parties have assigned to women independent sectors to look after the issues related to them in order to motivate them to join the political work and although women’s access to leading posts in political parties is still inferior (women’s membership in politburo is not considerable as it doesn’t exceed 5%) yet women’s presence is very weak in all political parties without exception, even if some of these parties are strongly backed up by women like Hezbollah and the Lebanese Communist party.

Maybe the weak participation of women in political parties is primarily due to the fact that most of these parties have designated special organizations for women within their mass organizations, which leads to the exclusion of women from direct political work (Hezbollah’s women, Phalanx party women, Progressist socialist party women and women’s rights committee for the communist party) .

Women in the executive, legislative and public powers:

Women enjoy the same capacity as men concerning candidacy for posts occupied by means of election or examination.

Nevertheless, it seems that there are customs preventing women’s access to public leading posts. Despite the fact that Lebanon was a precursor in acknowledging the right of electing women, after the struggle led by the pioneers of women’s movements in 1952, this achievement has not been confirmed in the political representation and women’s access to the parliament remains rare in terms of number and method.

Women have acceded to the parliament by subordination to men. The first woman to get to the parliament was Mirna Bustani in 1963, superseding her deceased father and in completion to his term of office. In 1991, Nayla Mohawad was designated after her husband, René Mohawad, the elected Lebanese president, was killed. During the elections of 1992 three women acceded to the parliament and in 1996, three women were elected too. The women candidates have obtained high percentages of the votes and they have performed a distinguished attendance in parliament that has confirmed women’s competence and seriousness.

At present, three women hold the position of parliament members out of 128, two women are general directors out of 160 among directories and public institutions, fifteen women are members in the recently elected municipal councils, which constitute an inferior number. Not one woman has, up to now, occupied, in Lebanon, an office in the executive power or in the cabinet, in spite of the existence of high qualifications, the demands claimed by women’s movements for that purpose and the candidacy of some pioneers to the presidency or ministry who have got remarkable approval in the public opinion statistics. It should be noticed that there aren’t any programs to attract women to public and political offices. Field studies have revealed women’s exclusion in the governmental policies to the present time. Then, the percentage of women in parliament does not exceed 3.2% and their presence on the local level does not go beyond 3.0%.

It is relevant to notice that the Constitution opens up wide opportunities to the president and ministers who believe in equality to drive forward women’s process. Women still suffer from the obstacles among which the major ones are related to family, religion and pecuniary problems, in addition to the reluctance on the part of candidacy lists and political parties to adopt women. The problem does not lie in the constitution or law but in the discriminating prevalent customs.

Women in the judicial corps

The exclusive post occupied by women in first category offices remains the judicial corps. The occurrence of entrance examination for the judicial corps limits discretionary acceptance and provides availability and equality of opportunities. This is what happened during the last few years where the number of women who have acceded to the judicial corps has concretely increased. Women’s access to the judicial corps was rare, but since the early nineties, the number of women in judgeship has tremendously increased and litigants got used to women judges on the judgement seat pronouncing verdicts on behalf of the Lebanese people.

In the last statistics of the ministry of justice, it appeared that there are 86 lady judges out of a total number of 463 judges in judicial courts, 6 lady judges out of a total of 34 judges in the state consultative council and another lady judge of this council was annexed to the proceedings department. Still, no woman judge has accessed, till the time being, to supreme councils, namely the constitutional council, the supreme judicial council or the judicial council. What involves women in a negative manner is the non-acceptance of women in all religious courts (except one woman of the Evangelical confession). These courts look into personal status proceedings that are of direct concern to women.

3- Women in government representation and participation on the international level.

There is no great difference for women between this domain and the Diplomatic corps. In the last survey recently made by the National committee, it appeared that, in the records of the Ministry for foreign affairs, the number of women representing Lebanon as ambassadors does not exceed 3 out of 53 ambassadors, the number of women occupying the post of counselor is 110 out of 260 and the lady consuls are 14 out of 58 . Yet, the general impression is that, in case of women’s presence, this presence should be in middle cadres and below. This is a fact that should be confronted and changed. A man also represents Lebanon’s membership in the committee for women in the United Nations Organization. It should be noticed that the Ministry of Foreign affairs system required the incumbent transfer of the lady officer of the diplomatic corps to the central administration in case she got married to a foreigner. This law was amended in 1994, and the lady officers were allowed to persist in their functions. Yet, the work of a diplomat’s wife is still subject to the discrimination applicable in this case, as the law does not authorize diplomats’ wives to work in any institution unless they get a prior permission on the part of the Foreign Minister. This matter results from compulsory abstention from work, as this law does not grant, equally for husbands and wives, the freedom of work continuance, and the Foreign minister’s refusal should be limited to the cases where this continuance is in contradiction with public interest.

4- Women’s right in voting and candidacy:

Article 21 the Lebanese constitution: " every Lebanese citizen, aged 21, has the right to vote, provided that he (she) fulfills the required conditions under the Election Law. Article 7 (a) of CEDAW gives emphasis to women’s right to vote under all electoral forms and focuses on their capacity of being candidates in and electors of representation cadres. Article 7 (b) reflects also international law standards, however this article, by its provision stipulating that state parties " Shall ensure " the right of participation, binds governments to bring about circumstances in the purpose of facilitating women’s participation. Article 7 (c) includes the only reference of the convention to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), as it sets forth women’s right to participate in Non- Governmental organizations and Unions concerned with civil political life the country. The Lebanese government hasn’t made reserves concerning this article and therefore, its commitment must be a complete one. This fact means that the government must have the concept and will in order to introduce women candidates in the governmental election lists and proceed towards positive steps in this field, like designating quota (relative representation for women) for example. It must also comply with the elimination of restrictions limiting women’s access to some specific jobs due to her gender. The Lebanese constitution, as we have already mentioned, do not discriminate between men and women as far as public functions are concerned. Moreover, the Lebanese constitution ensures political equality between men and women as far as this issue is concerned. Therefore, it gives wide scope of participation to women in all kinds of elections and public referendums. Women’s participation in the parliamentary elections of 1996 is still below the required level. Nevertheless, the increase of education and women’s wider accession to the labor market became motivating for their participation in voting and candidacy. The last election law, based on individual candidature has, however, restricted women’s candidacy. This law is not fair enough, as it doesn’t authorize all citizens to stand as candidates for elections or to vote. It does not take up the effective domicile as the basis for candidacy or vote. We notice that nine women only ran as candidates for the elections in 1992 and ten ladies stood as candidates for the elections of 1996, among whom three have succeeded.

It is relevant to notice that women’s relative participation in power has increased In 1998: 78 women were elected in municipal councils and 40 women were elected mayors all over the Lebanese provinces, whereas during the previous elections of 1992, 5 ladies were elected as members in municipal councils and 2 were elected mayors. The parliamentary election experience has motivated organizations to promulgate a national project for the purpose of encouraging women to stand as candidates for local authority election. Indeed, in 1998, 353 ladies ran as candidates for election all over the provinces among which 139 candidates were elected.

Consequently, some of the major obstacles for women’s participation in parliamentary and local authorities elections are: the new election law based on individual candidature, confessionalism and traditional mentalities since women’s candidacy was restrained because of them.

5- Women and nationality:

Lebanon has made reserves regarding article 9, clause 2 of CEDAW, concerning the issue of nationality. The Lebanese nationality law still discriminates between men and women and it doesn’t include any trend for total equality. This law is decree no. 15 dated 19/10/1925 and amended by the law of 11/01/1960. This law discriminates against women in:

1* Using consanguinity solely: Every person born from a Lebanese father is deemed Lebanese no matter where he (she) was born. Thus, the Lebanese law restricts consanguinity to the father. Consequently, Lebanese mothers can’t grant their nationality to their children and so, they are deprived of one of their basic rights as citizens.

2* Discriminating between mothers Lebanese by origin and foreign naturalized mothers: The Lebanese law entitles foreign mothers that have acquired the Lebanese nationality, the right to grant it to their underage children if these mothers remain alive after their husbands death. Whereas it doesn’t grant this right to mothers who are Lebanese by origin.

3* Reacquiring the Lebanese nationality: Legislation makes Lebanese women’s rights to reacquire their nationality lost due to their marriage to foreigners – Whose country laws forbid double nationality – contingent on the foreign husbands approval. This issue constitutes a minimization of women’s rights.

6- Women and economy:

Due to the war that lasted 15 years, from 1975 to 1990, The Lebanese economy has incurred changes that have compelled women to enter the labor market for the purpose of ensuring an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families. However, women’s condition in economic structures hasn’t changed a lot since the ratification of the convention. Women’s impact on economic policies is still quite non-existent (according to the reports drafted by the national committee for women’s affairs). Whether women’s employment constitute 28% according to the report of Human development or 21.8% according to the study of living conditions and families, women’s labor remains below 1/3 of the total labor. Whereas the labor law put women and men on the same level regarding salaries, it does not require or ensure equality in promotion and rank, since there is no clear and binding stipulation in the law concerning this issue. This fact gives free scope to discrimination in the private sector, especially that employing women is avoided in the private sector in order not to grant maternity and other leaves. The research made by the institute for women studies shows a weak presence of women in decision-making positions and a weak participation of women in leading productive institutions in the public and private sectors without distinction. Researches have also revealed a marginalization of women’s labor in certain sectors (as we shall present later on within the subject of women and labor) to the extent of not counting it in the gross national product.

Indications tend to a larger participation of women in family expenses: 31% of working women provide, at the time being, half of family expenses. The percentage of families supported by women is 14.2%, according to the population survey and most of the heads of such families are widows, single women or divorced women.

As far as poverty level is concerned, the equation is simple: Rich men’s wives enjoy wealth more than their husbands and poor men’s wives are more burdened with poverty than their husbands. The only positive point that appeared in relation to the economic problem as a whole, after the ratification of the convention, is that the actual government has considered integrating women in the economic development process. The Prime minister has sent a letter to the national committee for women’s affairs requesting the preparation and presentation of its participation in the five-year development plan that the Lebanese government is preparing. Therefore, this was the first initiative taken in making women participate in planning development policies on the national level, whereas women’s economic enablement was, in the past, solely restricted to the ministry of social affairs.

III – Women and Education: (article 10 of CEDAW)

1- Women and education in the Lebanese laws :

Lebanese laws don’t discriminate between women and men in education opportunities. These laws ensure equality for women in the fields of elementary, complementary, secondary and university education as well as in the stages of general, technical and vocational education. The general tables of 1996-1997 published in 1998 by the Educational center for researches and development of the Lebanese Republic shows the evolution of the equality concept in education:

Percentage of women in general education.

















Lebanese women have benefited of the propagation of free education all over the Lebanese territories, just as men did. It is interesting also to notice that, in the official examinations, girls have occupied top ranks for many years.

The Lebanese law doesn’t forbid mixed education in all stages of scholar and university education and in curricula. Students of both sexes sit for the same examinations in schools. Lebanon has developed its educational system, and lately, a special law was passed in order to make education compulsory from the age of 6 till 12. However, this law still lacks an implementation mechanism.

The law does not prevent women from participating in the various kinds of physical education and sports. Up to the present time, the predominant culture and society customs are proud with women’s participation in the different types of sports.

2-Women and illiteracy:

Statistics reveal a tremendous increase in the number of women in higher education. The last statistics of 1996, carried out by the national committee for women’s affairs, show that the percentage of those who can read and write is 94% out of the Lebanese population. Illiteracy is decreasing gradually among youth: 9.2% of males and 17.8% of females are illiterate and the general average of illiteracy is of 13.3%. This percentage is higher for those who are above the age 45 years where it reaches 22.1% for men and 46% for women.

Consequently, the illiteracy problem concerns middle-aged people. In their policies, governments do not include programs for grown-ups education, for continuous education or for those who had left school. These tasks are to be assumed by non-governmental organizations that do not possess the financial and technical coverage required for giving top concern in respect of this issue.

Another statistical study of the Education Center for researches and development reveals that the percentage of young women attending university education is of 48.39% in 1995 and of 49.74% during 1996-1997 as shown in the following table:

Percentage of women’s registration in University Education .


Grand Total For males & females

Percentage of Women

Gender or Social Nature













Nevertheless, the equality perceived in education opportunities for both males and females is not totally reflected in vocational fields of specialization as the percentage of women acceding to these fields is still very low.

Statistics reveal that girls have a strong predilection to majors despite the fact that the percentage of women registered in Scientific majors has increased lately. It could be concluded that women in Lebanon still consider higher education as a personal education field. The relationship between the major studied at university and labor market has not been modified into an objective factor when opting for a certain field of specialization. Most likely, benefiting of scholarships and educational or training exchange programs remains available to men. The government has not recommended any plans to encourage women to participate in such exchange programs.

3-Women in curricula and book making:

Although the successive government statements on 5/6/1995 and 19/11/1996 focused on development and equality of opportunities to everybody, yet, the effective interpretation of this declaration has not been achieved and no recourses have been developed to motivate Lebanese women in order to increase their participation in the development process. Even the last governmental statement dated December 14th, 1998 did not include any hints regarding the enforcement of the convention on the Elimination of all forms of effective discrimination against women in all the fields of national life. Still, article 5 of the said governmental statements mention the government tendency to protect rights and public and private freedoms ensured by the constitution and the international covenants ratified by Lebanon.

The latest governments have not taken interest in reconsidering effectively the roles shared by men and women in society. The best evidence for this fact appears through the workshop set up to amend the education curricula that were issued in 1998, women still appeared assuming traditional responsibilities and tasks and sharing roles remained confined to traditional men and women stereotypes. History and literature texts used in Lebanon still present women as secretaries and nurses whereas men are presented as executives and doctors, although the number of lady doctors is very high.

This is due, in the first place, to the low percentage of women’s participation in general curricula committees: there are 252 men for 118 women. So, opportunities were not equal for men and women despite the development of women’s educational capacities as shown in many previous studies. The same could be said regarding the preparation and making of schoolbooks.

4- Women in the teaching profession :

The percentage of women in the teaching profession in all its stages has reached a very high rate. For the year 1996-1997, it reached 86.47% in gratuitous education, 73.22% in private education and 62.15% in public education according to the Education center for researches and development. Nevertheless, the percentage of women in university teaching remains low, especially in private universities. Women work most in Elementary and complementary education sectors where the percentage of their participation exceeds 40%.

IV- Women and labor: (articles 2,11 and 13(a))

Exhaustive research about Lebanese women and labor:

1- Women, employees’ laws and regulations and procedure:

Legislation has deemed that solely the male spouse must assume the task of supporting the family. This concept has ceased to exist since a long time: through their work, women became partners with men in assuming the responsibility of their families and in building up society. Unfortunately, employees’ laws and regulations, in addition to procedure, are discriminating between men and women employees through some of their articles. They also prejudice women employees, especially in respect of equality and the right to family allowances. Unlike men, women employees do not profit by social security benefits and family compensation. Moreover, they are not subject to the same conditions as men, although the Lebanese government deducts, every month, from women employees’ salaries the same amount as from men’s salaries in order to finance the cooperative fund. Yet, judicial authorities apply the ILO covenants to the advantage of women in this field.

2- Women and labor law:

Discrimination still exists in labor law and no amendments have been brought about on it until now. The provisions of the labor law discriminate against women in a way or another. The Lebanese law does not entitle women to freedom of choice regarding the types, place and timing of the jobs performed by them. Furthermore, it does not punish the employers or their agents who use their positions to sexually harass their female employees. Moreover, the maternity leave period is unfair; it must be amended so that it shall reach 10 weeks at least, according to ILO laws and CEDAW. Eventually, there is no equality concerning working hours and salaries between men and women in Lebanon.

3- Women and social security law:

The social security law aims at insuring individuals and families. Although families are currently supported financially both by women and men, and although the social security fund collects the same contribution from insured working women and men, yet there are some articles of this law that are contradictory to and incompatible with articles 2, 11, 12 and 13(a) of the convention and discriminate between men and women. Furthermore, this law does not completely ensure human rights for working women, especially with regard to pregnancy and maternity periods.

4- Women and the terrestrial trade law:

Discrimination appears in the terrestrial trade law, at least, in its provision despite the fact that women are working the same as men, yet some provisions, especially articles 625, 626, 627 and 628, still discriminate between men and women. Parliament members passed a bill to amend the terrestrial trade law and sent it to the prime minister on 31/5/1999 for examination on 17/8/1999, the government approved the amendment of certain articles namely 625 and 627, thus, women became almost equal to men as far as bankruptcy is concerned.

II – Women and equality in health care (article 12)

1- The situation of women in health care.

Lebanese women are not discriminated against in health services; however, in Lebanon, there is an absence of national health organizations in the ministry of health and no policies or planing are established in the fields of primary health care. There are not any clinics or consultative centers for teenagers, especially that 90% of teenagers acknowledge the absence of all types of health and sexual advice in schools. Sexual education is still lacking audacity and realism. What became common in Lebanon and other countries is the rise of the concept of women, the comprehensiveness of its meaning and women’s roles. This concept is clearly contradictory to the uniqueness of women’s role as mothers and it reflects an increase in the use of contraceptive means and in the number of women aware of these facts. In Lebanon, the percentage of married women using contraceptives is of 61% according to a study about the living conditions of families issued by the general department for central statistics in 1998. Women’s education is the main reason for the increase of this percentage. In fact, a social concept often puts women in the framework of sickness: 90% of complainers about some health troubles – like food and nutrition disturbance, melancholy and violence - are women and these latter constitute 80% of the people suffering from obesity.

For women, violence is considered a major cause of death and handicapping just like cancer. Family violence is estimated at 30 to 35% and sexual intercourse by force is estimated at 15%.

Nevertheless, women have benefited of the developments that have occurred in the fields of health and health education, since the life expectancy has increased to reach 71.2 years. Estimations indicate that in 2020, women in Lebanon shall live 19 years after they reach menopause due to the improvement of the standards of living and health care as aforesaid. The age of marriage has also risen both for men and women. In 1972, the average age for marriage was 25 for men and 24 for women, whereas in 1996, according to the results of the survey of the health of mothers and children, this average became of 31.8 for men and 28.6 for women in Beirut. Thus, the age of early marriages and health risks encountered by young mothers is gone. We almost find the same averages of the age of marriage for men and women in regions of Mount Lebanon, North Lebanon, Bekaa and South Lebanon, while this average remains low in the province of Nabatieh where it is of 29.3 for men and 18.9 for women.

Lebanon has witnessed serious developments, among which the most important were: the survey about the health of mothers and children, a population and housing survey and a study about the living conditions for families and women’s situation in various fields. The surveys have provided us with important data among which we find the development in reproduction health in Lebanon. Nevertheless, the percentage of mothers’ mortality due to work or delivery is still very high. The only study made in 1996 by the Ministry of public health indicated that mothers’ mortality in 1984 is of 104 per 100 000 cases, and this rate is high compared to the one in the developed countries. The government has planned for reducing it to reach 64 cases per 100 000 deliveries by the year 2001.

2- Women and health services – what are the available achievements?

In Lebanon, we have gone beyond the discriminative practices having health impacts as in other developing societies. The surveys related thereof constitute a general image in which we seem to have progressed in neutralizing the effect of the paternal gender system in the field of health: most of the Lebanese women get health care during their pregnancies, a great majority deliver in hospitals or sanitariums and most of them know one contraceptive method, at least. However, as we have already mentioned, health education is still below the required level. According to the survey of mothers’ and children’s health, it appeared that the percentage of women that undertake early medical examinations for breast and uterus cancer and osteoporosis is of 7.3% although radiography equipment are available both in the public and private sectors. The governmental institutions are assuming the responsibility of providing services, yet statistics show the absence of concern in such examinations despite the various informative campaigns about them.

Among the major problems that hinder the necessary health follow-up for women we find the expensive cost of medical treatments and follow-up and the absence of health education among some women who go to the doctor only when they have health problems.

The absence of health services in some regions and the unawareness of the existence of such services, on the part of women, constitute one of the major problems encountered by Lebanese women. Although 44% of women benefit of social security services, still 12.6% of families have been deprived of medical treatments at the expense of the ministry of health, according to the study about the living conditions of families issued in 1998 by the general department of central statistics.

The minister of health declared on 19/3/1999 that the ministry of health is striving to make 65% of the Lebanese population secured in pursuance of some measures that the ministry is seeking to undertake. The ministry of health has also taken the decision of including the reproduction health and family planing in the health primary care program, in addition to the integration of reproduction education in the curricula of public pre-university education.

3- Women and AIDS:

Statistics concerning AIDS are still not accurate and they do not reflect the real image; nevertheless, AIDS is a confirmed fact that affects women as well as men. A source in the ministry of health, the national program for the struggle against AIDS, indicates that the percentage of women victims of AIDS was of 21% for 1996 and 1997 and of 21.3% for 1998. The governmental institutions are cooperating with the NGOs in the declaration of national plans to prevent AIDS, there are also programs that are planned with the assistance of World Health Organization (WHO) for both women and men, especially for that purpose. Among the major measures taken to prevent AIDS, we find the campaigns of awareness through the different mass media and the appeal to use the preventive methods to avoid getting affected with AIDS. These campaigns were aimed at both sexes.

4- Women and abortion:

Abortion is still illegal, religiously inadmissible, and punished by by law. The Lebanese government has a law of medical ethics that prohibits abortion. Nevertheless, it is still practiced secretly and this clandestineness and illegitimacy complicate the ordainment of propagation related thereto. However, abortion is a major cause of women’s mortality, as women risk their health and sometimes their lives because they get an abortion in very unusual conditions. In this case, instead of regulating the facts, the Lebanese law is opposed to and conceals their occurring.

The provisions concerning abortion in Lebanon are among the most severe ones adopted worldwide. The criminal abortion, punished by law, is the cessation of pregnancy by irregular means. The Lebanese law forbids abortion but allows curative abortion in very restricted conditions. The law also sentences those who sell equipment destined for abortion and those who facilitate the use of such equipment to 2 months up to three years of imprisonment, but a woman who aborts herself " to preserve her honor" benefits of extenuating circumstances. Her accomplice is sentenced to one up to three years of prison. To abort a pregnant woman deliberately and without her consent is considered a crime.

If the person who commits the crime is her relative up to the second degree, and he has aborted her to preserve the family honor, he benefits of extenuatory circumstances. However, the law is very severe regarding criminals who are used to sell aborting equipment as they may be prevented from practicing their profession and their shops may be closed. As far as curative abortion is concerned, the law allows its occurrence within very restricted conditions:

  • In case abortion is the only means to save the mother’s life.
  • The treating doctor must counsel with two other doctors who shall agree on the necessity of abortion.
  • The pregnant woman must approve of the abortion, except when she is unconscious.

The strictness of the law regarding the provisions on abortion has not contributed in the diminishing of such phenomenon, it has rather consecrated the violation of law and casuistry. One of the consequences incumbent upon this matter is that well-off women go abroad to have an abortion in very expensive clinics that preserve the secrecy of the operation, while the law punishes the poor ones who use unhealthy methods and consult non-physicians to have an abortion so that their lives may be in danger.

Thus, such provisions are very strict regarding those who commit such " crimes " which constitute a violation of the humanitarian aspect of the subject that is classified in the penal law away from its objective backgrounds and framework and from the circumstances of the woman involved in it.

Women have an abortion, men don’t. The prohibition which is violated daily, constitute an obvious discrimination against women.

5- Women in health work:

A great number of women work in the health sector but their work is restricted to the intermediate administrative and biological professions. Most doctors and surgeons are men: among one thousand persons working in this field we have 396 women against 604 men. As to the percentage of women enrolled in the medical association is of 16.7% and the percentage of those registered in the dentists association is of 19.6%. The percentage of women in the ministry of health is almost the same as the aforementioned percentages. A field study made in 1996 by the national committee for women’s affairs reveals that women do not hold first category posts, only one woman occupies a second category post and ten women hold third category posts .

V – Rural women (article 14).

  • 1- Rural women and CEDAW.

Article 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women states the necessity of improving and developing the conditions of rural women. In fact, the Lebanese rural women are not aware of the provisions of this article and the advantages provided by them and on the other hand, no measures were taken to convey such knowledge to these women.

The issue of taking an interest in rural matters is still the last concern.

The Lebanese government along with its official institutions have considered the issue of developing the living conditions in rural areas as one of its priorities, yet, this concern has not been interpreted in practice. Rural women still encounter difficult circumstances, come up against obstacles in obtaining loans and credits and are excluded from the provisions of labor law.

  • 2- The obstacles encountering the development of rural women
  • One of the majors difficulties encountered by women is that their social and economic roles are not recognized although most of the agrarian works are not included in the gross national product.
  • Rural women, like the other women in Lebanon, suffer from all forms of discrimination, in addition to the particularity of their rural role as women sticking to the soil.
  • Rural women, like all other women, neither contribute in the development of economic and agricultural policies nor participate in the planning in organizations or committees.
  • There aren’t any special programs to fulfill the needs of rural women.
  • There aren’t any allocations in the Lebanese government budget assigned to the programs dedicated for rural women, especially that the living conditions on the social and economic scale are, in general, very difficult in the rural area.
  • The absence of education and training. Education, in this sense, does not mean going to school – as there isn’t any significant difference between rural and urban areas but what is intended is education and training regarding activities and programs that aim at the improvement of the performance level of rural women. Such programs are limited and, most of the time non-governmental.
  • The absence, in the rural area of family planning programs that take into consideration incorporation of non-agricultural activities, like industry and trade, as the rural society is not only restricted to the agrarian works.

3- Rural women and health care:

As far as health services are concerned, the study about family living conditions shows that the percentage of women benefiting of health services is higher than that of men: 42.2% for women against 7.41% for men. This study reveals a disparity between the rural and urban areas, however, this difference is not very important as the rural Lebanese areas have developed due to the effect of the structural changes in the Lebanese economy during the war .

The discrepancy between the rural and urban areas is very clear as far as health services, health insurance, housing conditions, water and electricity services are concerned.

VII – Women in marriage and family laws (Article 16)

  • 1- Woman and the personal status law:

Lebanon has made reserves regarding article 16 of the convention. This article concerns personal status, marriage and family. Clause 1 paragraph (c) relevant to the equality in rights and obligations in marriage. Paragraph (d) relevant to the equality in rights and obligations for mothers as far as their children’s affairs are concerned, paragraph (f) relevant to the equality in rights and obligations concerning their children’s guardianship, custody tutelage and adoption.

This reservation was imposed by the duality of the Lebanese civil law, as the confessional laws by virtue of article 9 of the Lebanese constitution regulate the personal status.

And since the personal status laws are not unified in Lebanon due to the existence of various religion laws. Discriminating between men and women. This gender discrimination reaches its utmost in the personal status laws. Women’s role is acknowledged only in the law texts, however, in practice, women are confined to their biological functions, like procreation and taking care of their children and husbands in return of alimony. Thus, men master over women and impose submission upon them. Sometimes, men belonging to certain confessions, divorce their wives, prevent them from seeing their children, indemnify them with negligible sums for the divorce or get second wives. These laws threaten women with divorce, homelessness and polygamy even if this latter is not a widespread phenomenon among the Muslim confessions that authorize polygamy. Women are also threatened with the prevention from compensation, from their children’s custody and from inheritance. In the case of inheritance, laws are mixed up with customs. Many attempts were made to pass a standardized and optional law for personal status in order to treat men and women equally as far as confession and gender are concerned, but these attempts collided with the confessional reality.

Two draft laws submitted in 1974 and 1996, by political parties are still in the drawers of the parliament, for the former president of the republic has sent a bill, approved by the majority of ministers, to the cabinet, yet this latter hasn’t submitted it to the parliament, which is contrary to the constitution. At present, 75 NGOs are drafting a civil optional bill, comprising 223 articles, that ensures equality between men and women. This bill had to be submitted to the parliament in 1999.

A part from the discrimination between men and women, personal status laws also discriminate between one citizen and another; this discrimination is contradictory to the principle of equality before the law stipulated in the constitution and international conventions relevant to the human rights and ratified by Lebanon without making any reservations. Personal status includes a person’s name, surname, social rank, marital status and capacity, in addition to matters related to his possessions like testaments and inheritance. It is worth mentioning that there are legislative provisions relevant to all the Lebanese citizens, laws relevant to foreigners and provisions relevant to the Muslims only. So, competencies are shared out between civil and religions courts. The Lebanese law recognizes 18 confessions and grants them the authority to legislate and to have independent administration and courts. Religious laws govern the provisions relevant to birth, marriage, divorce, rights and obligations that are incumbent upon marriage including the relationship with children. Thus, despite the fact that all laws ensure equality between men and women in their rights relevant to marriage, to choosing the spouse and to women’s total consent regarding marriage, yet, nothing ensures the enforcement of such rights. The minimum age for marriage, for some confessions, ranges between 16 and 18 years, nevertheless, men have the right to marry girls who are 9 years old (for Shiites) and 12 years old (for other confessions) , and men may get married at the age of 15. When men or women are below legal majority, the law imposes getting the guardian’s consent to the marriage. For Muslims, a proxy may contract marriage. The law doesn’t acknowledge illegal marriages or concubinage, so that the children born in such marriages or concubinage are considered illegitimate children if one of their parents doesn’t recognize them. The law also stipulates that marriage and divorce must be registered at the court immediately after their occurrence.

Family laws are in contradiction with the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) in various fields.

  1. 2- women and the rights and obligations during marriage :

Governmental policies haven’t reconditioned any regulations with regard to the traditional roles based on gender. Law and customs confirm the concept of paterfamilias and men’s responsibility to support the family financially. This fact impacts upon women in respect of equality in the labor laws, social allowances and pensionary compensations, especially concerning the families supported by women as 15% of the families in Lebanon are headed by women.

Men preside over women and the family:

  • A married woman must use her husband’s surname even if he dies (among Christian confessions, while among Muslims she may re-use her maiden name).
  • Muslim confessions impose dowry, whereas dowry and dot are optional for Christians.
  • A married woman must obey her husband and accompany him wherever and no matter how far he goes: in case she refuses to do so, she is compelled to go to the submission home.
  • A married woman is not allowed to work or to practice any profession provided, however, she gets her husband consent (Except among Catholics, Greek orthodox and evangelicals).
  • A man is not compelled to get an independent house for his wife (he may impose on his wife to live with his parents or with his other wife).
  • The house furniture belongs to the husband unless his wife proves the contrary.
  • Men are allowed to chastise their wives (among Muslims).
  • Although polygamy for Muslims is allowed in Lebanon, yet its occurrence is quite infrequent. Regarding women’s rights and obligations in such a marriage, they are the same as those in the case of monogamy as far as inheritance is concerned. The four wives inherit 1/8 of their husband possessions just as if he was married to one woman only. Yet a man must treat his four wives equally without any discrimination between them.
  • A married woman, among Muslim confessions, must obtain her husband’s permission in order to go outside the house.
  • Women have the same rights as men regarding the ownership of a real estate and the right to dispose of her possessions, except for the dot that remains at the husband’s disposal and under his control (among Christians).
  • In case the husband goes bankrupt, his wife may get back the possessions and real-estates that belonged to her before getting married, yet she has to prove this fact by legal means. She may also get back the possessions acquired after her marriage by using a sum of money that belonged to her before her marriage or was given to her gratuitously after her marriage. As for the possessions acquired during her marriage, by means other than the aforementioned, it is considered that they have been acquired by the husband’s money; consequently, the wife is not allowed to get them back and these possessions are annexed to the possessions of the bankrupt husband.
  1. 3- Women in the dissolution of marriage and divorce
  • A man may divorce his wife for any reason and without her knowledge (among Muslim confessions).
  • Among Christian confessions a separation is decided in case the religions court imposes on the married woman to return to the conjugal home and she doesn’t, within the allotted time. Unless she submits to the court a legal excuse (except among evangelicals and Catholics).
  • Another cause for divorce is when a woman claims to be a virgin and the contrary is proved to be right after her marriage by a medical certificate.
  • Muslim men may empower a third party to divorce their wives.
  • Muslim wives are not allowed to divorce their husbands unless they have recourse to courts in very scarce case.

The consequences of dissolution and divorce:

  • Divorce must be officially registered in the religious courts.
  • Muslim women who do not have the custody of their children are not entitled to any alimony but to dowry.
  • Christian women found guilty and condemned to separation are not entitled any alimony.
  • Christian women divorced because of adultery are not entitled to remarry.
  • The iddat (period during which a widow or a divorce may not remarry) ranges from three to ten months among Christians and some of the Muslim confessions.
  • Divorced Muslim women lose their children’s custody at the age of 7 (at the age of 2 among Shiites) for boys and at the age of 9 (7 among Shiites) for girls.
  • In case of divorce, women are entitled to the possessions bought by the means of their own money, yet they have to prove this fact.
  • 4- The rights and obligations of mothers and fathers:
  • In case of marriage, fathers are given precedence over mothers as far as children’s upbringing is concerned.
  • Children live at their father’s home due to paternal domination. Fathers bring up their children and supply them with sustenance.
  • Custodianship entitles custodians to a general power of attorney on the part of the children subject to custody in respect of these latter’s possessions , upbringing and breeding.
  • If the father is dead or if he is deprived of his children’s custody by a court decision, then the guardianship is given to their grandfather (their father’s father).
  • Law sets suckling period for 2 years, starting from the date of birth.
  • Women are not entitled to choose the number of children they shall have or the intervals between them.
  • There aren’t any programs or general legislation in Lebanon relevant to family breeding or planning.

6-Women and inheritance:

The inheritance law for non-Muslims passed in 1959, thanks to the initiative taken by the bar associations and NGOs, equalizes between males and female in inheritance (among Christians). Yet, among Muslims, inheritance is subject to the religious provision of the Muslim confessions: males inherit twice as female and among Sunnite confessions, in case one or both parents are dead (when they have daughters only), females do not inherit all the possessions left by their parent(s), as other members of the family (such as uncles, aunts and cousins) inherit too. Moreover, among Muslims, women inherit half of their husbands’ possessions (in case they don’t have any children). There is an exception, however, as far as domanial lands are concerned, where equality is applied towards all Lebanese citizens.

The multiplicity of personal status laws in addition to the fact of granting the competence to religious courts and legislations render this domain very hard and delicate to deal with.

VIII – Women and violence (article 6 and 16 )

  • 1- The true state of violence in Lebanon.

Article 16 of the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women doesn’t treat violence directly, however, it takes into consideration the legal source that legislates the use violence against women within their family relations, yet the obligations required by this article along with the issue of violence against women were clarified by the convention in the recommendations of the general committee, recommendation No. 19. Lebanon has made reserves concerning article 16 of the convention and no amendments were brought about on the laws that are not in accordance with the convention.

The statistics made by the general department of internal security show that in 1977, there were 1302 cases of aggression, among which 66 cases of rape, 54 cases of defloration, 62 cases of homicide, 110 cases of attempted murder as well as 1011 cases of assault and battery incurred by women in Lebanon. These figures are definitely a mere sample of what is really happening in Lebanon due to the cultural nature of this country. If domestic violence is the major type of violence practiced against women, yet violence at work is also another form of violence incurred by women in Lebanon. At work, violence is used primarily in salaries, promotion, training, retraining as well as in sexual harassment which is the traditional kind of violence practiced on a large scale in Lebanon and remains without any legal protection. The reference made by the "Lebanese council to resist violence against women" to the fact that the cases of rape incurred by young women were mostly accomplished by the employer, the schoolteacher, the cousin, the stepfather or the father. All of them have constituted 50% of the rape cases, while the father or husband has constituted alone the remainder 50%. The issue of domestic violence and violence at work is subject to the moral standards that expose women to moral disgrace in case of disclosure or talk. In Lebanon, there are no laws protecting family, women, children, and young women against violence practiced by men and brothers. Sometimes violence starts on the wedding day and some of the young wives incur violence on the part of one of the family members within their homes. The average age for women who incur violence is of 35 years old. Mixed religious marriages have constituted an insignificant part of the cases of violence since mixed religious marriages constituted 3/40 of the total of the cases and led to problems with the spouse and parents. There are various and different types of violence among which assault and battery to prevent from outlay and to prevent the wife from going out, to threat with divorce, to have sexual intercourse by force with the violated woman, rape attempts and sometimes young women’s confinement at home. The true state of violence in Lebanon is contradictory to the stipulations of the universal declaration of human rights, to the international conventions, and on top of them "the declaration concerning the elimination of violence against women" and "the convention on the elimination of all forms of violence against women". The violence exercised against women within and outside their families is still considered as a private matter: to discuss or defame it remains within social prohibitions and it makes the traditional judicial systems impotent to determine this kind of violence and to bring it out from individual and family Scope to the general one in order to render it subject to law. This issue is not discussed in the official circles. Care centers and institutions for women victims of violence are absent and in case they exist, they do not have enough room for these women. The only recourse they have got are certain convents like the good pastor’s convents and "hope association" who have undertaken the task of ensuring care for prostitute women.

The cases of violence incurred by women in Lebanon are wide spread among all social classes and categories. The issue is not only related to the economic environment, as we find such cases among the upper-classes of society. It has different aspects so that it becomes comprehensive.

This kind of violence is a result of the distribution of social roles between women and men, which has placed women in the situation of subordination and submission from very long time. The Lebanese penal, civil and personal status laws in effect have established this situation for women. The first obstacle encountered in abolishing violence is probably the absence of preventive laws and judicial and executive systems applying these laws in the absence of civil laws that safeguard women’s rights within the family including their right to joint ownership, upbringing and custodianship of their children. Violence against women at home and at work remains a delicate issue. Another obstacle is the absence of governmental programs and policies aiming at women’s enablement and enlightenment. The mass media play a crucial role in respect of this issue, especially as far as spreading the concept of democracy and resolving family problems by means of understanding are concerned. One of the major problems encountering the elimination of violence against women is the absence of institutions dedicated for listening to women. As for judicial assistance, it is a voluntary field on the part of the bar association whereas the government doesn’t interfere seriously in it.

  • 2- Laws regulating family relations ( personal status ) and violence against women :

In Lebanon , there aren’t any laws that regulate family life, whereas the laws in effect don’t put forward any positive solutions. In fact, these laws are unfair as far as women are concerned, especially regarding divorce and its consequences, namely custody and alimony. Moreover, there aren’t any centers dedicated to receive the victims of violence to protect them. Such centers may constitute a refuge for women who leave their homes. There aren’t any law provisions that ensure women’s right to their conjugal homes, protect them from being thrown out into the street after their divorce.

The personal status laws that are in effect in Lebanon – among all confessions - encompass different degrees of violence and discrimination against women. In fact , they are away behind the advancing position, on the scientific and professional levels, reached by women in oriental societies in general, and in the Lebanese society in particular. Such laws still confirm the accessory role of women that allows the occurrence of various forms of moral violence against them. Women are still depending on men because of the male power, including but not limited to the acknowledgement of the right to submission to the male spouse: a women is considered disobedient in case she doesn’t submit to her husband. The Lebanese laws expressly stipulate that a woman must follow her husband to his place of residence and her refusal may be considered a cause on which basis her husband may divorce her. Such unfair discrimination against women in the personal status laws clearly appears in the law of divorce and the impacts resulting from it. Actually , the consequences of divorce, separation or dissolution of marriage comprise many aspects of injustice towards women that make women, financially or psychologically/ emotionally, unable to liberate themselves from any disastrous situation that they may live in within their families. Such laws consider, for instance, that mothers’ role terminates at the end of the suckling period which duration varies from one confession to another. And limiting the age for mothers’ custodianship in such a way is one of the major reasons that prevent women victims of violence from taking any measures towards putting an end to their suffering. In a lot of cases, women have preferred to endure all forms of physical and moral violence rather that risk losing their children when the latter are above the age for maternal custody. This issue varies from one confession to another: the age for maternal custody is between 2 and 7 for male children and between 9 and 12 for daughters according to the jurisprudence of each confession.

  • 3- penal law and violence against women :

the Lebanese legislation hasn’t tackled the problems of violence against women and home violence in a clear manner. It has been rather concerned with physical harming namely the result of violence. The Lebanese law doesn’t protect from such a form of violence, it only punishes those who commit it. The Lebanese penal law applies the principle of crime of harming the others to all the acts that may cause physical violence since it considers physical violence as a form of harming, so that it constitutes a crime in itself that is stipulated for in the penal law, articles 554, 555, 556, 557, 558 and 559. Consequently, the Lebanese penal law lacks specific provisions that vary according to the victim. Furthermore, it needs provisions concerning violence at home incurred by women within their families on the part of their fathers of husbands - physical, sexual and moral violence - , because the Lebanese penal law doesn’t comprise articles with respect to violence at home or harming women. On the contrary , it puts women on the same level as the men who are subject to physical harming. The penal law includes, however, provisions regarding some forms of violence in general such as rape, adultery, kidnapping, seducement and immorality (articles 503 to 522). Such lack is considered to be a huge defect in regulating a society in which violence is widespread. Moral and physical forms of violence are the most common forms of violence in Lebanon, since married women are most of the times, more subject to insults and vituperation inside and outside their homes than to battery and physical harm. In fact, insults may affect and harm more than assault. Once more, the penal law doesn’t comprise special provisions concerning slander, defamation and vilification incurred by married women, children and domestic servants. Nevertheless, it punishes for such acts in general, through articles 582, 583 and 584, but the punishment is reduced in case such vilification and stander are not committed " in public", which is unfair and doesn’t constitute a measure to prevent the occurrence of violence.

A man rarely insults his wife, children or domestic servants in public; he rather does it in private and away from anybody else’s right and hearing.

  • 4- The impracticability of applying the law :

As regards instituting legal proceedings :

Through previous experience, women victims of violence rarely bring suit against their husbands. Actually, they hesitate a lot before taking such a measure for many reasons. However, once they overstep the obstacles and undertake the procedure of lodging a complaint against their husbands, they have to take up a great challenge namely the police station where policemen despise these women, play the role of safeguarding these women’s family lives or refuse to register the complaint. Thus, women incur another form of violence that destroy them and annihilate the remainder of their dignity and pride.

As regards enforcing the law provisions: the punishment stipulated for in the Lebanese law is severe in the same degree as the damage resulting from the harm. Such damage is determined by a medical examiner’s report that may be contested by another medical examiner who is assigned by the court on the perpetrator’s demand, in addition to the pressures put on women by the family members and society during the trial. Such reasons drive women to waive the suit as well as their rights and consequently, men’s right to practice violence against their relatives is confirmed. As a matter of fact, the Lebanese legislation is very strict regarding the punishment for the murder of the ascendants or descendants (article 549/penal law). Such crimes are punished by death in order to safeguard the sanctity of the family. In the same spirit, the Lebanese legislation must establish a law directly related to violence at home in order to protect the family. There aren’t any precautionary measures set forth in the Lebanese law against any person who is likely to practice acts of violence against his family members.

5- The achievements carried out in this field .

  • Dealing with the issue of violence against women in Lebanon is relatively new, since the fact of putting forth this subject in public started only a few years ago. The most important event in this field was the formation, in 1995, of the first Arab hearing for women victims of violence in Lebanon, within the preparation to the conference of Beijing.
  • Lebanon’s essential participation in the foundation of a women’s court known as " the permanent Arab court to resist violence against women" that established its headquarters in Lebanon.
  • The Lebanese council to resist violence against women was founded in 1997. It has established the first hot line to receive complaints on the part of women subjected to all forms of violence. This council has listened to almost 200 cases up to now, and it has given psychological, legal and Judicial consultations to a number of women. The report issued by the council mentioned the suffering of 92 women among those who have sought refuge with it and such cases were distributed all over the Lebanese regions, among all religious confessions and all social classes in Lebanon.
  • The democratic women’s assembly in Lebanon has founded a center devoted to give advice to some of the women victims of violence.
  • The Lebanese judicial authorities constitute the most important security for women exposed to violence since various judicial decisions have diminished the strictness of the law texts that are in effect by putting restricted limitations to the forms of chastisement. Furthermore, article 2 of the Lebanese civil procedure law grants the judicial authorities a strong weapon, namely the fact that international conventions govern the national laws in case of controversy.
  • Some of the officials in the police stations are university graduates and holders of a Bachelor of law and most of them have followed training sessions in the field of human rights so that such policemen became more friendly.
  • Refuge centers for women victims of violence have been established in Lebanon in some convents, in centers devoted to incest victims and married mothers (from the age of 9 till 18) and centers consecrated for foreign women who work as housemaids. Moreover, some indications show that concern is given to protect prostitutes.

6-violence in mass media :

Studies revealed an increase in the cases of violence in society during the last decade of the 20th century. Such an increase has occurred at the same time as the development and spreading of mass media and lately the internet. These studies indicate that violence in the mass media encourages aggressive and violent behavior and individual’s gradual adaptation to violence in their daily lives, besides the loss of the feeling of social protection. Violence is represented in various forms in the mass media like physical violence and moral violence. The physical form is present in action movies and the moral one is often embodied in the promotion of women’s image as a sex product, in the exploitation of such an image and in showing women’s bodies to promote any product of any kind. This issue exposes women in Lebanon to violence and sexual aggression, regardless how conservative the Lebanese society is.

A survey made by "Statistics Lebanon" to the YWCA (young women’s Christian association) on the basis of observing all the programs, items of news and ads on the Lebanese TV channels for one week in February 1999, revealed that a lot of direct physical violence was used in addition to weaponry, violent words and images, robbery and sexual assault.

IX- Women and the struggle against their exploitation (article 6 of CEDAW)

1- Women and prostitution:

Article 6 of the convention sets forth: "States parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women". The legal provisions regarding prostitution in Lebanon are stipulated for in the law of safeguarding public health against prostitution and in the penal law. The law regulates the conditions required to establish prostitution houses among which we mention: men are not allowed to open such houses; The lady owner must be above the age of 25 and the employment of young men and women below the age of 18 and virgin women is forbidden. Moreover, prostitutes must be subject to various conditions like being above 21 years of age and the mandatory medical examination on regular basis. The law prohibits clandestine prostitution and punishes those who practice it, facilitate it or depend on prostitution to earn their livings. The Lebanese government submitted to the parliament, few years ago, a draft law that imposed the closure of all brothels but the bill hasn’t been passed up to now.