BEIRUT: Women’s rights activists escalated their campaign Thursday to see the family violence law passed, blocking a main road in downtown Beirut and threatening an open-ended hunger strike if lawmakers do not pass the family violence law proposed over two years ago.
“Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, but we’re not here to celebrate women’s day because there is nothing to celebrate,” Nay al-Rahi, one of the organizers, told reporters. “We tried all available means to get through to [the politicians], from protests in the street to addressing them through the media and social media, but we discovered that they want women to die in this country, so we will give them dead women.”
Rahi announced that lawmakers had one week to meet and pass the proposed law without amendments before she and other activists began their hunger strike. The parliamentary committee tasked with studying the law failed to agree on a final draft, thanks largely to a provision that would recognize marital rape. Religious figures and politicians alike have come out against what they characterize as interference in private family matters.
Following Rahi’s statement, about a dozen protesters blocked the main thoroughfare passing in front of the Beirut municipality building downtown, sparking a shouting match with security forces who tried to clear the road. Eventually traffic was rerouted to go around demonstrators.
Nadine Mouawad, the founder of Nasawiya, the driving force behind Thursday’s protest, said about 20 women were prepared to go on hunger strike, promising more escalatory measures in the coming weeks.
For her part, Rahi said she and the other activists were willing to go “as far as they let us” in their hunger strike.
“They’ve been standing aside doing nothing while women are being killed in their homes, so we might as well die in front of them,” she told The Daily Star.