BEIRUT: Celebrations of Mother’s Day were marked Thursday by calls for the government and Parliament to do more to protect women and children.
The Grand Serail was the site of a sit-in by advocates of granting women equal citizenship rights, since they cannot pass on Lebanese nationality to their children if married to foreigners.
In a statement distributed at the event, members of the Citizenship is a Right for Me and My Family group said the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati had failed to live up to a promise made one year ago to amend the relevant legislation:
“The pioneers of sectarian balance, from the Free Patriotic Movement and the Marada Movement, succeeded in twisting the arms of other members of the ministerial committee tasked with amending the citizenship law.”
“They forced [ministers close to President Michel Sleiman and Mikati], along with those from Hezbollah and Amal, to reject the proposal to grant equal citizenship rights, with the exception of the Progressive Socialist Party’s [Minister] Wael Abu Faour, who didn’t attend any of the committee’s meetings,” the group said.
Christian parties have expressed reservations about allowing Lebanese women married to foreigners to pass on citizenship to their children, fearing that it will lead to further sectarian imbalance. They are also concerned that Palestinian men would receive citizenship in the process, which would contravene the Constitution’s stipulation against the permanent settlement of Palestinians in Lebanon.
The association Say No to Violence issued a statement urging the government to amend the citizenship law, as well as to enact legislation that protects women from domestic violence, “without emptying the law of its content.”
Muslim religious figures have opposed such legislation, since it would criminalize domestic rape.
For his part, Mikati hailed the contributions of women to society in various areas during a meeting with a committee representing mothers and civil society organizations at the Grand Serail.
“Women are the family, the school, the university and they represent culture, with no limits,” Mikati said.
Rim Abdul-Khaleq of the anti-drug association JAD said Mikati had promised to form a government subcommittee to tackle a range of problems from which women are suffering.
“As mothers, we are suffering from what is taking place, and we must ensure that these incidents aren’t repeated,” she said, citing the kidnapping of minors for ransom, road accidents, drug abuse and child beggars.
“If a solution is impossible, then let them tell us so,” she added.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri tweeted a salute to Lebanese and Arab women on the occasion, voicing his strong support for passing an anti-domestic violence law, as well as giving women full citizenship rights.
Hariri also singled out women in Palestine and Syria for special tribute this year, for their immense sacrifices.
The Kataeb Party held a seminar in Jounieh, where speakers talked about the need to eliminate discrimination.
Former Minister Mona Ofeich told the gathering that “women are subject to all forms of violence, and they have no voice, while no law protects them.”
“Women should be allowed to participate in all political decisions, with no obstacles. Only then will we be able to say that the face of my mother is the face of my nation,” she said.
At Baabda Palace, First Lady Wafaa Sleiman signed a protocol of cooperation between the American University of Beirut, St. Joseph University and the organization Yaduna (Our Hand), which she heads.
The agreement will lead to the establishment of a center dedicated to women’s cardiovascular health, and will also provide a range of other health-related services, focused on prevention.