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Lebanon protests urged after man picked as first women's affairs minister

Category: Gender policy 

Feminist groups in Lebanon have called for protests over the appointment of a man as the country’s first-ever women’s affairs minister.


The choice of Jean Ogasapian to run the ministry has sparked widespread disbelief and mockery over what many perceived as an insult to Lebanon’s active women’s rights movement.


Nasri Atallah, a Lebanese writer, described it as “the ultimate act of mansplaining”.


The Lebanese government convened this week for the first time since Saad Hariri was sworn in as prime minister. It capped two and a half years of a political vacuum during which the country had no president.


Amid the political jockeying for seats in the cabinet, which are divided by sectarian loyalties and allegiance to the country’s many warlords-turned-politicians rather than any measure of competence, Ogasapian’s appointment drew strong derision.


KAFA, a prominent women’s rights organisation, called for protests under the slogan, “No women, no legitimacy”.

“The government that has been announced is a clear indictment to all the politicians who took part in creating it,” the organisation said in a statement. “It is an insult to all women.”

Lebanon faces many challenges in advancing women’s rights in a nation that has a thin veneer of westernisation but remains deeply patriarchal. Domestic violence is pervasive in the country, and Lebanese women cannot pass on their citizenship to their children if they marry foreigners.

Only this month, the parliament began the process of repealing an article in the penal code that allowed the halting of a rape prosecution if the perpetrator married his victim.


Commentators on social media satirised the appointment of a man in the women’s affairs ministry – a state ministry that will probably have little power to advance women’s rights.

One common joke showed Rosie the Riveter, who symbolised American women working in shipyards in a second world war poster campaign, with Ogasapian’s face transposed over Rosie’s.

Rima Njeim, a popular radio host, joked that a male women’s affairs minister could extend maternity leave until a newborn starts school or make all women retake their driving licence tests.

Others pointed out that few of the other ministers were suited to their jobs. The tourism minister, for example, has a degree in physics; the minister of culture is a vascular surgeon; the agriculture minister is a lawyer; and the minister of public health holds a degree in engineering.

Lebanon’s new government, led by the son of the assassinated former prime minister Rafik Hariri, faces numerous problems, including decaying infrastructure and power cuts to recurring crises in rubbish collection, caring for a refugee population from Syria that numbers more than a million, and containing the fallout from the war in which Hezbollah, the most powerful military organisation in the country, is fighting for the regime of Bashar al-Assad.




Tags: Lebanon protests women’s rights government

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