The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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February 21, 2012

The Daily Star - Greater awareness of gender equality needed within families: study, February 21, 2012

By Olivia Alabaster

BEIRUT: New research has shown that many women in Lebanon are still consigned to a traditional role within the family, with men making the majority of decisions. However, a woman’s independence increases with economic power and a solid education.
The research, led by Professor Fahmia Charafeddine, president of the Follow-up on Women’s Issues Committee, and Professor Lamia Shehade, was conducted over two years, and includes interviews with 645 people from every region of Lebanon.
The project, “Develop a Culture of Dialogue and Democracy within the Lebanese Family,” was designed, according to project manager Nada Makhi, to “look at the relationships between husbands and wives and their differing roles within the family.” It was supported by the Foundation for Future/Amman and was held in partnership with the Social Affairs Ministry.
The results were released Friday, accompanied by a multimedia campaign that urges people to, “Be a family, don’t be prisoners.”
“Overwhelmingly we found that the role of the woman is still related to ... old traditions,” Makhi said. This was largely due, she added, to the myriad laws which work against women, and the portrayal of women in the media. Women are still often viewed as objects, and not equals, she said.
After conducting the study, the researchers held roundtable discussions with people across Lebanon to discuss some of the issues raised, and the researchers then developed conclusions and an action plan, including recommendations. Presenting the findings Friday, Charafeddine said that, “We are still stuck in the last century. The family today is not developing.”
The interviews saw husbands and wives answer, separately, questions on their relationship, decision-making within the family and the common causes and solutions to arguments.
“Even if there are discussions between husband and wife about important issues, it is not normally ultimately her who makes the decision,” Charafeddine said.
While men make the majority of decisions, and in cases where the husband was the main earner, the woman had a lower profile within the family, “As the education level of the women rises, so her spending power increases, and her role within decision-making.”
Women with personal bank accounts were more likely to have gone to university and to have been employed, the research found, and were also more likely to be actively involved in family decision-making.
Arguments between married couples were most commonly sparked by discussions about family issues – accounting for 60.9 percent of arguments. Social issues were next, accounting for 39.7 percent of arguments, with emotional reasons coming third at 28.5 percent. Discussions about money were least likely to lead to an argument, the research found, accounting for only 7.6 percent of arguments.
During the focus group sessions, discussions on why such arguments happen revealed that men “saw the most common cause of conflict as women wanting to increase her power,” Charafeddine said, with women citing violence and a “masculine society” as causal factors for the outbreak of disagreements.
Men also believed women became involved in such arguments due to a lack of maturity, a lack of respect, sexual dissatisfaction and a difference in political beliefs. However, women said that they commonly got dragged into such arguments due to a desire to avoid a violent resolution, to prevent interference by other family members and to not want men to take control.
In terms of how such arguments were commonly resolved, the research showed that dialogue was the most oft-cited solution, accounting for 70.9 percent of resolutions. In 10.2 percent of cases, men made the ultimate decision, and in 1.2 percent of cases, women made the final decision.
The study concluded with recommendations to allow women greater independence and an increased role within the family, including legislative change, scrapping patriarchal systems, such as granting women the right to pass their citizenship on to their children, as well as wider societal changes.
It was urgent and should be made a “cultural priority,” the researchers said, for equal rights to be taught in schools and in society. A woman’s image in school textbooks, which often portrays her cooking and cleaning, Charafeddine explained, must be updated and modernized. So too should a woman’s portrayal in the media, which often depicts her as little more than an object.
“To raise awareness on equal rights,” Charafeddine said, would eventually lead to an “equal level of dialogue within the family.” It was also necessary, she added, for women themselves to have greater awareness of their rights, which would help “empower women to discover her role and capabilities.”
Dr. Jinan Usta, at the American University of Beirut Medical Center, who specializes in family relationships and domestic violence, agrees to a large extent with the study’s findings, but also believes society is slowly progressing. While “the change is slow and gradual, more education about roles and about respect of other human beings,” is definitely needed, she said.
“Younger generations are much more willing to adopt role’s traditionally assigned to the other gender, such as men helping in the kitchen and changing babies’ diapers and women working and sharing in household expenses and taking decisions at home.”

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