Public hearing for women at Nejmeh Square

I am a woman who is underqualified in personal status affairs

Public hearing for women at Nejmeh Square

A woman who rocks the cradle with her right hand can rock the world with her left.

We have heard loud slogans being repeated in March (on the occasion of International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day).

This is how they give us the illusion that it’s enough for us to play our role in rocking the cradle in order to be shaking the world. This is how we forget that in this country we are seen as incompetent women in the eyes of the personal status law, and that we are second-class citizens.

This is how Zoya Rouhana, the director of the KAFA organization, kickstarted the public hearing that was held at the noon of March 23 at the Nejmeh Square outside the Lebanese parliament.

Elham, Latifa, Pauline, Doha, Walaa, Ghada, among others, stood firmly, and proceeded to tell their painful stories and demonstrate what the personal status laws in Lebanon have made them go through.

“This sit-in is symbolic,” Zoya Rouhana added. “For the first time ever, such a number of women dare to stand outside parliament, or send voice messages, to talk about their suffering and demand their rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution.”

These women’s cases have tackled by Sunni, Shiite, Christian and Druze religious courts, whose laws are similar in discriminating against women. Some of them were forcibly married as minors, some were prohibited from seeing their children and some were convicted of “disobedience” because they sought refuge at shelters.

With loud and confident voices despite their anxiety and anguish, these women crossed social and psychological barriers, and spoke out, demanding their right to live: “I want a law that allows me to live,” said a lady deprived of her children because she could no longer handle her husband’s unrelenting abuse.

Another woman spoke about her son’s ‘repressed happiness’ after he saw her in court after a long absence and was unable to express how happy he was to see her.

As for Pauline, she finally was able to take a glimpse of her son from behind his classroom door. Her husband, backed by the law, had deprived her of her son, and even went as far as to demand that her son’s school prevent her from entering to see him.

This year KAFA, along with these ladies, have chosen to celebrate Mother’s Day by gathering in front of the Lebanese parliament to show the lawmakers in which ‘heaven’ these mothers live due to sectarian personal status laws.

We want a unified law on personal status which respects our rights and our children’s rights and which would make us all equal and end injustice against us: this is how the women concluded their testimonies today.