Lebanon UPR Pre-session: WILPF and ABAAD Present to Advocate for Women’s Rights
The second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Lebanon will be held on November 2, 2015. The UPR is a mechanism through which the human rights record of each United Nations Member State is reviewed by all the other member states. During the UPR, UN Member States make recommendations to the State under Review on how to improve their human rights records. The State under Review then has to implement these recommendations before the next review. If you want to learn more about the UPR process, watch WILPF’s webinar on the Human Rights Council and the UPR.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR WILPF AND ITS PARTNERS TO RELAY LOCAL CONCERNS
WILPF systematically engages in pre-sessions to bring its expertise and to share it with various stakeholders in Geneva. Anthony Keedi from ABAAD (one of WILPF’s partner organisations) participated in this UPR pre-session with the support of WILPF to voice women’s concerns in Lebanon. Anthony emphasised that the recent peaceful protests of the Lebanese people show their desire for reform of the political system. States should thus make full use of this timely UPR review of Lebanon to make strong recommendations that can support change towards stronger human rights protection.
ABOLISHING DISCRIMINATORY LAWS AGAINST WOMEN
Firstly, ABAAD denounced Lebanon’s failure to fully comply with CEDAW as it has ratified this text with major reservations on Articles 9 (nationality), 16 (marriage and family life), and 29 (disputes under the Convention). These reservations continue to expose women to a legal system that is biased towards patriarchal ideals, for instance by depriving women from the right to give their nationality to their children or from the right to freely divorce their husbands. As such, ABAAD called on States to recommend Lebanon to withdraw its reservations on CEDAW.
In addition, a segregated, sectarian, confessional, and religiously regulated legal system (called personal status laws) exists in Lebanon. This places citizens under differentiated legal statuses depending on their religion. With approximately 15 different personal status systems all placed under the authority of male religious leaders and scholars, it is a system made by men, in which women have not decided for the laws that affect them. Women strongly suffer from the gender inequalities inherent to these laws, notably regarding marriage, divorce, custody rights, inheritance, wills or legal age of marriage. Hence, ABAAD urged Member States to recommend Lebanon to repeal personal status laws and to adopt a unified civil law, guaranteeing gender equality, compliant with the Constitution and with Lebanon’s international commitments under CEDAW.
ENHANCING WOMEN’S POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
ABAAD stressed that the statistics regarding political participation of women in Lebanon are appalling by international standards. ABAAD thus called on Member States to recommend Lebanon to promote policies encouraging the involvement of women in public life and in particular, to adopt women’s quota of at least 33% in both the legislative elections and in the cabinet in line with Lebanon’s obligations deriving from CEDAW.
Furthermore, Lebanon is to abide by the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and its sister document 1820. These documents aim not only to ensure specific measures are adopted to protect women from violence and discrimination in times of conflict, but also to enhance women’s participation in peace processes and politics. As of yet, Lebanon has failed to even organise a committee with the goal of developing a National Action Plan and a subsequent budget for UNSCR 1325. ABAAD hence strongly called on States to recommend the Lebanese Government to develop a National Action Plan implementing UNSCR 1325 with a subsequent budget and accountability plan, in full partnership with Lebanese CSOs working on gender equality.
RESPONDING TO WOMEN AND GIRLS REFUGEES’ NEEDS
Refugees in Lebanon face an overwhelming number of Human Rights violations as Lebanon currently hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world. In this context, refugee women and girls are especially vulnerable.
Women and girls of the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon have fallen victim to unprecedented Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Lebanon including, but not restricted to: forced labour, trafficking, sexual exploitation, early marriage, domestic violence, GBV in public spaces, sexual harassment, and lack of timely, gender-sensitive, and adequate health services and medical attention. ABAAD thus called on Member States to make recommendations to Lebanon acknowledging the vulnerabilities of refugee women and girls, ensuring that refugee camps have proper shelters that respond to women’s specific physical and health needs and ensuring equal access for refugees to health services.
Refugee women who are working are expected to pay for costs and fees related to social security without eligibility to benefit from the resulting services, they have no rights related to property in Lebanon, and they have no legal protection from domestic violence under the existing Lebanese Family Violence Law (number 293) should they reside within Palestinian refugee camps. ABAAD hence called on States to allow Palestinian refugees to enjoy full social security rights and to extend the Lebanese State’s procedural justice, to include refugee camps, in order to protect Palestinian refugees.
Lebanon must ensure that refugees on its soil are duly protected and afforded their human rights. Nonetheless, it is essential that all other States take responsibility in the refugee crisis and in helping Lebanon and Turkey welcome the largest proportion of asylum seekers.
WILPF and ABAAD will actively follow the outcome of the UPR session taking place on 2 November and will keep you updated. Note that you can watch the UPR session live online on 2 November on the website of the United Nations.