Civil society and the new cabinet

Last week, after five months of deliberations, Cabinet Secretary General Suheil Bouji announced the appointment of the country’s new government with business mogul Najib Mikati at its head.
Days before, soon-to-be Minister of Youth and Sports Faisal Karami had spoken out against a draft law to criminalize domestic violence following a meeting with Islamic judges, claiming it posed a threat to local family values by encouraging family disintegration. The bill, which was approved by the cabinet in April 2010, is waiting for ratification in parliament.
While a number of activists took Karami’s statement as a blow to women’s rights, some maintain that speculating on how the new cabinet will respond to civil society’s other major concerns — such as reforming the electoral law, creating a civil status law, and guaranteeing women’s right to pass their nationality to their husbands and children — is premature.
For starters, “It’s a good step to have a cabinet,” said Ziad Abdel Samad from the Arab NGO Network for Development, though he said he didn’t think the current government, like the one before, would tackle the country’s most pressing social issues. Nor was he optimistic about the new ministers taking anti-corruption measures, which he said was another major problem.
“The opposition should hold the government accountable,” he said. “Ultimately however, it is not about the cabinet line-up, but rather the system as a whole.  The problem is systemic, and the same debate will be repeated around the same issues [regardless of the cabinet].”
Samer Abdallah, general coordinator of the NGO Nahwa al-Muwatiniya echoed Abdel Samad’s statement. “Whether a national-unity or majority cabinet, it doesn’t make a difference,” he told NOW Lebanon. He too blamed the “system” for civil society’s struggles.

“I don’t know why we should have any more expectations with this cabinet than with the others,” he said. “Work needs to be done on the culture as a whole. It’s about the community, and it’s a long process… A new cabinet will not make the [needed] changes.”
Both activists agreed that the shift from a national-unity cabinet to a March 8-led one would have major ramifications on Lebanon’s foreign policy and international relations rather than on Lebanese society. However, both insisted on waiting for the Ministerial Statement to be released before making assumptions.
But Oussama Safa, secretary general of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, argued otherwise, voicing concern about a cabinet of one color.
“The cabinet is from one political affiliation, among allies… so it does not come with the same consensus as the previous cabinet,” he said. “We hope it will be able to forge consensus, but it doesn’t seem like it.”
Whereas in the last cabinet, civil society was represented by Minister of Interior Ziad Baroud, known as the “activist minister,” there is no one in the current government who is especially concerned with civil society initiatives. “This cannot be but a disappointment from our perspective.”
Yet the biggest blow to Lebanese civil society is that half of the country’s population—women— are not represented by a female minister in the cabinet.
“My first concern is that for the first time since 2005, it is an all-male cabinet,” said Lina Abou Habib, head of the CRTDA, an NGO that organizes the Women’s Right to Nationality Campaign. “I don’t know if they realize, but this is very serious. We thought we were done with the days of a fully-male cabinet.”
Though female cabinet ministers of the past were not necessarily feminists or had a feminist agenda, “Representation is a right,” she said, “and this is a serious area of concern.”
Last week, the CRTDA sent PM Mikati a communiqué voicing alarm at the lack of female ministers and laying out the NGO’s three main concerns: ensuring women’s right to pass on their nationality to their husbands and children, the pending draft law to criminalize violence against women, and adopting a personal civil status law.
“We’re not going to pass judgment now, but we will pass judgment based on what they decide to do or not to do on these issues,” she said, noting that the past government had also failed to come through on their concerns. “The only thing we can do is give them to benefit of the doubt,” she said.
Zoha Rohanna, director of the local women’s rights NGO KAFA, agreed, though she noted that the domestic violence law was not a concern, given that it had already been approved by the former cabinet and was solely at risk in parliament. “I think [Karami] didn’t even read the law, so how can he make this statement?” she said.

  • ali daoud

    Mabrouk our new Government, the best government ever, at least it doesn`t include those who ruined Lebanon economically and made the debt reach 55 usd billion, and at least it doesn`t include those who allied with israel in 2006, shame on those traitors, history will not forgive them , they encouraged israel to invade us and to occupy our land, however, our Mighty Moqawama disappointed all those coward traitors and kicked off israel. Vive the New Resisting Lebanon, down israel, down Saudi arabia

    June 22, 2011


    The definitive picture of pirates disguised in suits, each planning his loot! Pretty soon Lebanon will join Somalia’s fate and tales of ruthless pirates… The Hizbollahfication of Lebanon insititutions has started with Iran's Basij, Syria's Berri, Assad's Marada, Aoun Khadaffi, Don Quixote Bassil and all their political mafia of unbalanced and vengeful politicians. After telecom and energy, they’ve already set their sight on Solidere, the only respectable company left in Lebanon after the exodus of good paying multinational firms compliment of the Basij. Pretty soon Lebanon will be a wasteland with the same economic vitality, freedom and attractiveness to investors as Tehran or Hizbollah(...)… Pity a nation!

    June 21, 2011

  • unfair

    for God's sake...don't be such a hypocrate!!! 90% of lebanese women are absolutelly obsessed with money, finding a wealthy husband and having kids!!! in that order...in the lebanese social fabric a woman succeeds when she marries a rich guy and gives birth to 3-4 healthy kids of which at least 50% should be male...(...)...if you wanna make it to date a nice lebanese girl, u first need to get yourself a mercedes, then spend thousands on gifts (jewellery, handbags and watches) and finally take her out every day to the poshest restaurants...if all you can aspire for is to become a waiter, then u better forget about marrying, cause no girl will even look at you...facts baby...facts...don't complain when women are not represented in a government, and instead of asking for more rights, first look at yourselves in the mirror...

    June 21, 2011

  • wilypagan

    Karami must have an IQ of 50 if he thinks domestic violence is what binds a family together. I would be ashamed to be his wife. She should leave him immediately for besmirching her "honor".

    June 21, 2011