Women’s Rights Always On the Backburner, But Death Doesn’t Wait

Friday 11 October 201906:18 pm
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​لا يمكن أن تؤجَّل قضايا حقوق النساء... فالموت لا ينتظر

We've become so used to being a postponed afterthought.

"I want my freedom" – do you think that this is the most pressing issue today?

"I want to decide when and who I have relationships with" – do you think that there is nothing more important than your pleasure amidst all the catastrophes we live in?

"I want a fair Famiy Law" – don't you see the upcoming war and the external enemy?

"I want the right to pass my nationality to my children" – don't you see how this would affect society?

"I want to live in security and without fear" – don't you see that we all want security for this country?

"I want to leave an abusive husband" – you're helping dismantle the family unit and society, and deserve to be deprived of your children.

Women’s rights have not found center stage in these Arab countries, for it is always "not the right time". There are always more important issues: national, regional, economic and social, and women’s issues always comes at the bottom of the list.

I did not personally know Nadine, we weren't even friends on Facebook. I used to see her at sit-ins and various demonstrations. I know her from her shouts at sit-ins in front of the Jaafari (Shiite) court, calling for her rights and the rights of women like her. I saw her in the latest sit-in, she sat next to me on the pavement smoking a cigarette; a mutual friend asked me: "Do you know Nadine?" - I replied "No, not personally". She responded: "Nadine is also one of those mothers who are fighting for their sons." I said: Who doesn't know this, "we all know her story," All of us, those who went to the squares and shouted for years, know her story and the story of many other women, always awaiting postponed issues.

I don't know what her son's age is, but they lived together for many years awaiting their postponed cause, awaiting the right of custody which is never "the right time to address" – and Nadine ultimately died before that time came. Before the country was liberated, before the conspiracies ended and before the departure of the enemy. She left before the economy improved, before we can address all of our crises, making time for her and her son and many other women besides her, awaiting only to see if they can hug their children whenever they wanted.

All of us – we may not necessarily know each other personally, but we know the stories of pain, we share similar concerns and grievances. Car accidents and other causes of death, we may not be able to change, but the unjust laws of the court and many years of deprivation, these are issues that could be different, and our memories of them could be a bit happier. The mothers amongst us and our children have the right to happier memories and fewer pains. Was it not more beneficial for Nadine to be a normal mother, who hugs her child every morning before school, and tells her/him a bedtime story? Wouldn't this country have been a little better and a little more beautiful if its laws were fair to us?

The state will not become a state so long as it deprives a mother of her children. We will not become a society, so long as a woman walking on the street does so fearing harassment. Security will not prevail if we must accept rape.
Nadine Jouni died in a car accident. She was leading one of the toughest battles in Lebanon, against the Shiite Jaafari court, defending women's rights to the custody of their children

Nadine's story is not only a personal story, and her death today was not just an accident: her death came to affirm a compounded injustice: our always-postponed happiness, our postponed peace of mind, our postponed rights, that we must fight to attain, attempting all available means of exerting pressure: participating in sit-ins for years, writing, raising our voices high, going through the legal routes, as well as scandal, confrontation and breaking the law – all this in order to be able to hug our young ones. Our small dreams remained postponed and our rights at the bottom of the list. The difficulty of the path is not enough; for death can catch up with us while we are still on that road, indefinitely postponing all hugs.

"It's been a long time since we went to a feminist sit-in" I heard her say at one sit-in, That sit-in, by way of contrast, was organized by "Free nation, free women", a group which began in Palestine before extending to the diaspora. It was here to tell us that women causes are a priority, that our security is a priority, and that the crux of liberation discourse needs to be redefined to encompass the freedom of women along with any other liberation. The state will not become a state so long as it deprives a mother of her children. We will not become a society, so long as a woman walking on the street does so fearing harassment. Security will not prevail if we are subject to rape. Social justice will not be achieved so long as a domestic worker works without a fair contract. So what are we really delaying?

You are delaying the liberation of this society only because you fear losing your authority. Our freedom of movement is a case of priority just as much as being liberated from occupation is, so stop ranking priorities and issues. Your fear is a testimony to our growing power; every day a women is subject to injustice from this regime, our anger grows. Our anger accumulates because we, "all of us", know the stories of injustice even if we did not know each other personally. All of us without exception have experienced harassment – even if the circumstances and reactions of each case differed.

Every mother amongst us knows the meaning of being deprived of her children, and is fully aware of the depth of that pain. We all know the meaning of having to work harder, exert more effort somewhere – whether at work, home or in general society – in order to attain our rights, which often arrive deducted. So when we tell our stories, we realize how similar our experiences of pain and subjugation are. Our pain and our bitterness that you are planting in us produces anger. An anger that will dismantle this patriarchal society in a not-so-distant future, allowing us to obtain our rights with our hands, bodies and brains.

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