Women review Libyan legislation within a gender perspective

Nov 21, 2017

Women listen to one of the participants of the round table talking about legislation in Libya. Photo: ©UNDP

As part of its efforts to strengthen the role of Libyan women in the political transition, from 16 to 18 November, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organized a round table for Libyan women, aimed at discussing Libyan laws within a gender perspective. For three days, participants from civil society, government and academia studied whether certain legislations respect women’s rights.

“We are experts in different subjects such as constitution, civil legislation, criminal law, and economic law. We are learning from each other, giving each other a better understanding of women’s rights, laws, and opening our minds to discover the different realities of women in Libya,” said a member of the State Council, Ms. Maeimah Alhami.  “Having representatives from the government also allows us to look at the laws from a distinct perspective and give us a better ability to make decisions and recommendations.”

Some participants have legal or prior work experience on the constitution, others brought to the table the challenges that women face in different part of the country.

“I am here representing southern women. I am learning about legislation and women’s rights so that I can bring knowledge to the women in the south. In my region, tradition has a great weight in society. Women are oppressed by some rules that don’t have anything to do with the law, but with the culture. This needs to change,” said Ms. Fadia Hamad, women rights activist from Sebha.

It is the second time these women meet. In September 2017, they gathered to review the draft proposal of the constitution from a gender perspective and proposed gender provisions to be included if the constitution is to be further reviewed. At that event, they realized they need to meet again in a follow up meeting to scrutinize Libyan laws and legislations from a gender perspective.

PB178873Participants during the round table. Photo: ©UNDP

“One of the resolution from the last round table in September was that women should review the current legislation that touches women’s rights to create a baseline so that any new legislation will not fall below this line,” explained Ms. Omelez El Farsi, Political Science Professor at the University of Benghazi. “We decided to create a constant working group and to follow up and review any kind of legislation for or against women’s rights. We are looking at the political, social and economic aspects of the law such as marriages, education, heritage and so on.”

Once they review these laws, they aimed to give recommendations to the decision makers so that they reform them in a way that respect women’s rights.

“The legal system in Libya is still unified, so what we are doing here is useful for all the women in Libya. This workshop allows us to create a network of women around the country that can support each other,” said Ms. El Farsi.

Although women came from various parts of the country, and they have different experiences, when discussed the gender components of some Libyan laws they all reached similar conclusions.

“There are laws in Libya that are clearly very supportive, and there are others that are very aggressive against women’s rights. For this reason, we are doing this, to hopefully change it,” declared Ms. Alhami, member of the State Council. “We all, as women, have similar opinions. For example, the article 10 stablishes that the legal age for marriage is 18 years old, however a posterior amendment allows a girl’s guardian to force-marriage before that age if he finds it convenient. We discussed this amendment here and we all agreed that it was against women’s rights and need to be changed.”

During the event, some participants pointed out that there are Libyan laws that support women’s rights, but need to be rewritten to be more specific so tradition does not manipulate the law.

“Libyan law says that every adult person can drive. In the south, because of the conservative culture, women are not allowed to drive. For us in the south would be very important that the law specify that women and men are equally allowed to drive in the whole Libya,” said Ms. Hamad, Women Rights activist.

The round table was organized as part of the project ‘Advancing Libyan Women’s Participation During the Transition.’ Known as AMEL project, it aims to support the Women’s Empowerment and Support Unit at the Presidency Council so it can play an active role in ensuring that women’s rights are integrated in transitional policies and legislations, and to support women’s organizations to provide an effective lobby for women’s rights.

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