BEIRUT: Protesters gathered in Achrafieh’s Sassine Square Saturday to participate in an International Women’s Day march under the slogan “different causes, same struggle.”
Protesters carried banners and placards shedding light on some of the struggles women in Lebanon have faced and continue to endure to this day, including refugees from Syria and Palestine and migrant domestic workers.
“Marital rape is a crime," one banner read. “We want women’s representation in Parliament that is not from the patriarchal, sectarian political parties,” another said.
The march was organized by several women’s rights groups, student and political groups, including the Sawt al Niswa, Fe-Male, the American University of Beirut Feminist Club and the Dammeh feminist collective.
“We will march together because we refuse to accept anything less than full and equal rights for all women in Lebanon,” the organizers said in a joint statement on social media.
It was estimated that around 1,000 people turned up for the march.
"This turnout is invigorating," Joumana Talhouk, one of the organizers and President of the American University of Beirut Secular Club, told The Daily Star. "We have to keep supporting each of the organizing groups' efforts in the struggle for women's rights."
Members from other organizations were also present in support of the cause, including Beirut Madinati.
"Women's rights are not just an issue for women; their rights should be a concern for the entire community," Tarek Ammar, who ran with Beirut Madinati for the 2016 Beirut municipality elections, told The Daily Star.
Foreign women, including migrant domestic workers – who have recently unionized – also took part in the protest.
After gathering at Sassine Square in Achrafieh, the demonstrators marched across the Bechara Khoury highway to Kaskas Park in Horsh Beirut, the city's last public large green space.
Youmna Mroueh, a student at the American University of Beirut and another of the march's organizers, read a joint statement from student movements to local media.
"Today, as university or school students in Lebanon, we still deal with all sorts of harassment, be it physical or verbal," Mroueh said. "And what makes this more alarming is the hegemony of the sectarian and patriarchal political entities on our university campuses."
Women in Lebanon are still barred from some basic rights, such as the right to pass their citizenship on to their offspring.
Various women’s rights organizations have campaigned over the years for a civil law that protects women from domestic violence, including marital rape.
International Women’s Day is observed and celebrated annually on March 8.