- ABOUT SAY NO
- AROUND THE WORLD
- THE ISSUE
- TAKE ACTION
by Cornelia Epuras
I recently completed a LLM degree in International Human Rights Law at the University of Essex, United Kingdom (the official graduation day taking place in July), with a thesis on Minorities issues in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries. I obtained Bachelors of Law from University of Bucharest, where I simultaneously studied for a diploma in European Juridical Sciences delivered by the University of Paris. In early 2012, I began work as an intern for the Arab Centre for the Development of the Rule of Law and Integrity (ACRLI) based in Beirut and undertook at the same time some research involving women's rights and minority rights issues in the Middle East. I am stationed in Beirut and I am enjoying life here beyond the research scope.
Multiculturalism in My Community
From what I have witnessed so far in Lebanon, this country is based on pluralism, but not the one that is found in London or New York, where you encounter the whole array of ethnicities and languages. Lebanon features instead a plurality of religious confessions.
Lebanon encompasses approximately eighteen heterogeneous religious communities: Maronite and Eastern Orthodox Christians, Sunni and Shia Muslims, Druze, and other denominations and sects.
Since the formation of the Lebanese state in the 1940s, the Lebanese have distinguished themselves on the basis of their communal identity and not on the basis of a unified national identity.
Sectarianism lies at the centre of a power sharing arrangement, known as the National Pact of 1943 which, survived surprisingly for few decades. This unwritten arrangement provided with a sect based representation which ultimately served as a source for a fragile state. The Lebanese communities exhibit different values due to different allegiances or historic background. As a result, the Lebanese were never able to reach agreement on fundamental issues, and each sect held to its own institutional values, varying greatly between the different religious systems.
The demand for equal rights, gender equality and equal treatment for all Lebanese citizens has gained pace; civil society signalling that it is high time to review laws that allow detrimental provisions especially for women.
Druze, Shiite and Sunni lawmakers interpret Islamic legal sources differently, while Christian communities apply different versions of canon law. Catholic Christian men and women are hindered to divorce, while Greek-Orthodox, Sunni, Shia and Druze couples may file for divorce. However, the conditions for divorce are different for women and men, no matter the sect. Sunni and Shia men also have the legal entitlement to polygamy. Muslim women do not have this right. Custody is also disputed differently according to the religious affiliation.
A unified personal status code in line with the CEDAW to which Lebanon adhered; applicable to all women in Lebanon, irrespective of their religion is still inexistent. Unfortunately, CEDAW is a prism through which tension between Lebanese religious communities’ practices and women’s rights can be revealed.