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Jul 31, 2019
The Daily Star
Parliament to discuss women’s rights plans
Abby Sewell & Lea Akil| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Parliament has committed to take up a full package of women’s rights-related law proposals, including some that have so far stalled, in a special session next year. Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Minister of State for Economic Empowerment of Women and Youth Violette Safadi announced Tuesday that a session had been set for discussion of a wide-ranging series of women’s rights measures on March 17, 2020.
The measures to be discussed would include proposals to reform the nationality law and allow women as well as men to pass citizenship to their children, to ban marriage under the age of 18, to implement a law on workplace sexual harassment, to make adjustments to the existing domestic violence law, and to make changes to the labor and social security law, Safadi said.
“Every single law that’s already at Parliament on March 17, 2020, we will have Parliament discussing all these laws, and then I hope they are going to adopt them and we will start the implementation afterward,” she told The Daily Star. “We have to make sure that these laws are really comprehensive, that they are able to be implemented and that the parties that are responsible for implementing these laws are ready to do so.”
Safadi added: “The main point is not who’s presenting this law and who’s doing what. The main point is to work all together to make sure that these laws, once they are at the Parliament and they are adopted by the Parliament, that they are implemented and they are going to improve the lives of Lebanese women in the future.”
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has already agreed to hold the special session, she said. Safadi’s ministerial office has placed a counter on its website ticking down to the date.
Hariri, speaking at a news conference announcing the planned special session, noted that there was always “strong resistance to any change” but urged Lebanese to embrace a greater role for women in political life.
“We should not be afraid of change - to the contrary, we have to embrace change,” he said.
“There are Lebanese laws that must be amended and this is the responsibility of the members of Parliament. I hope that [one day] a woman will take over as prime minister, and I am proud of women and their essential role,” Hariri added.
Some of the legal proposals set to be discussed, like the ban on child marriage, have been discussed in parliamentary committees but have not been taken up by the full Parliament, while others - including several versions of the proposal to reform the nationality law - have been submitted but not yet taken up for discussion even in committee. Religious and sectarian concerns have, in some cases, blocked the measures from moving forward.
In the absence of legislative progress on the nationality law, Parliament last month passed an expedited draft law exempting children of Lebanese mothers and foreign fathers who have “courtesy” residency from having to apply for a work permit. However, President Michel Aoun last week returned the law to Parliament for reconsideration, drawing an outcry from advocates and some lawmakers.
Women’s rights advocates Tuesday expressed cautious optimism about the decision to set a special session for consideration of the women’s rights proposals.
“Setting a date is a good step but the date is very far,” a representative of KAFA, a non-governmental organization for women’s rights, who asked not to be identified, told The Daily Star.
The source said they were optimistic that the country could see change in favor of women’s rights, because this had witnessed progress in the past, including the passage of legislation against domestic violence in 2014.
“All laws in favor of women have gaps in them, which don’t let women get their full rights,” the representative said, but added that nevertheless there had been developments.
Claudine Aoun Roukoz, head of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, via a spokeswoman, said of the setting of a date to discuss the women’s rights measures, “It’s a positive step toward arriving at the goal of eliminating all discrimination against women.”
As to the timing of the session, she noted that some of the measures to be discussed, such as the proposal regarding sexual harassment, were still being developed, and that setting the date in March would give the commission time to complete work on all the proposals.
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