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    No Country for Women

    Not a single Lebanese woman is competent enough to become a member of the Cabinet. It is hard to come up with a different conclusion after Monday’s events. After months of deadlock Prime Minister Najib Mikati finally unveiled a cabinet lineup of 30 ministers shared among the parliamentary majority blocs, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the Shiite tandem Amal/Hezbollah, and 12 ministers belonging to the President, the Prime Minister and PSP Leader Walid Joumblat’s share. Obviously none of those leaders and political parties could be convinced of the need to include, even symbolically, a female presence in this government.

    Lebanese women, who earned their political rights early on, were always marginalized in politics. Their presence in successive parliaments has historically been among the lowest in the world and even in the region and is usually attributed to a male relative, deceased or not. Current women MPs can attest to that. However, there was a positive trend in the past years, and we got used to see a female participation in successive governments, even if in shy numbers. It was always assumed that this presence could only increase in number and importance. The last cabinet announcement came as a bitter surprise.

    Prime Minister Mikati, undoubtedly under immense pressure to please a widest possible audience, chose to marginalize/sacrifice half the country. But starting off on the wrong foot does not keep him off the hook. Lebanese women will be closely watching his performance and will be expecting even more from him now, whether in the policy statement of the government or how he intends to pursue a more gender-balanced approach throughout his tenure.

    Lebanese women will also be watching the women MPs, whether during the confidence vote or how they intend to hold and keep this government accountable for its actions at a later stage.

    The absence of women in the cabinet lineup is no doubt a blow that we hope will not be repeated. In the meantime, work should not stop and we expect progress regarding the approval and enactment of new amendments to the penal code, social security law, inheritance law and labor law that are currently being discussed in the Parliament. A step in this direction is a step towards recognizing that women are indeed equal citizens.


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