Lebanon’s first lady to Arab world: Make women’s rights a priority

By: Jonathan Simmons

Lebanese first lady Wafaa Michel Suleiman released a statement on Feb. 1 in commemoration of Arab Women’s Day,  calling on the peoples and governments of the Arab world to make women’s rights a priority in any push for reform.

Against a backdrop of unrest sweeping the Arab world, the first lady said, “…there can be no Arab advancement whatsoever, at whatever level, if women are not amongst its key components… We pay tribute to the Arab woman who epitomizes patience in the face of subjugation, suppression, violence, and hurdles. We praise the militant woman who defies occupation, tyranny and injustice (1).”

Lebanese women's rights activists protest legal inequalities. Image from Now!Lebanon.











Though uprising against long-standing autocracies in Tunisia and Egypt have largely swept those governments away, what effect the “Arab intifada” will have on women’s rights remains unclear.

Legal codes in the Arab world are often stacked against women, particularly in the areas of family and personal status law and laws defining illegal sexual conduct.

The sudden shifts in the political landscape of the Arab world have been greeted with both optimism and apprehension by women’s rights activists, who see in them a fresh chance to reform longstanding discriminatory laws and policies, but also a possibility of regression if the Arab uprisings bring radical Islamist parties into power.


1.  The Daily Star.  February 1, 2011.  “Lebanese first lady urges better treatment of Arab women. ”  Retrieved February 9, 2011 fro the Daily Star Web site: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=1&article_id=124384#axzz1CvDpdzQJ


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