Women's and Gender Rights Activism in Lebanon: Strategies for Solidarity and Networking

By Gabriella Nassif
Submitted to Session P4819 (Gender-Based Violence, Solidarity, and Advocacy, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Gender/Women's Studies;
The “gender-deficit literature” (El-Said, Meari & Pratt 2015) is no more clear than in Lebanon, where gender justice activism has taken myriad forms. Following the wave of 2011 uprisings, feminist activists in Lebanon began mobilizing, resulting in the development of a number of new nongovernment organizations (NGO) and civil society organizations (CSO) dedicated to issues of gender equality. Lebanon now boasts one of the most robust activist landscapes: KAFA (Enough!) Violence & Exploitation provides a 24/7 phone hotline for reporting instances of sexual violence and assault; ABAAD (Dimensions) has established 8 Women and Girl Safe Spaces (WGSS) around the country; the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW) has led the development of a national response plan for gender-based violence and reporting to municipal and national authorities. In August 2016, a collaboration of these gender activist groups signed the Beirut Call to Action; signed by a number of international, regional, and national organizations dedicated to women’s rights, the Beirut Call to Action promises to put women’s and gender rights at the forefront of policy and activist work in the region. In December 2016, coordinated action between these activist groups forced members of the Parliamentary Committee for Administration and Justice to agree to repeal Article 522 of the Lebanese Penal Code, which negates any legal convictions of a person who has committed rape, kidnapping or statutory rape if he marries the victim.

As Lebanese women’s and gender rights activists continue to forge expanding networks of solidarity, this paper focuses on the strategies and modalities of such network building. Women’s and gender rights provides the potential for inter-sectarian solidarity; it might also worse sectarian divisions between these activist groups. Using in-depth interviews and analysis of project and research documents from a variety of women’s and gender rights organizations, this paper hopes to shed light on the relationship between sectarian divides in Lebanon and gender activist organizations. Does the divide make for different intra-organization strategies and networking? Does the issue of women’s and gender rights provide a point of solidarity? How do activists embedded in these networks see themselves? How do these activists see the work that they’re doing as it relates nationally? Regionally? Internationally? And finally, how are international women’s and gender rights treatises and conventions a part of such strategies? Do these international instruments prove more useful than national instruments?