The Women of Lebanon: How Does Patriarchy Rule Their World?
Patriarchy is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly: control by men of a disproportionately large share of power. Merriam-Webster continues on to state that it is a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy.
Patriarchy is one of the most powerful forces in the world today. It is a worldwide system that predates recorded history. Patriarchy has had to maintain its power in the subjugation of women as well as using varying forms of government. Cultures that are patriarchal up hold the privileges of men based on gender, social structures, religious practices and legal codes. In layman’s terms, throughout history patriarchs have tried to take by force what does not belong to them.
In 1943, as a result of a progression of compromises between leaders from religious sects in the country, mainly Christian Maronites, Sunni Muslims, and the French mandatory power, the state of Lebanon was created. The Lebanese state was established where as each religious sect was assured representation in parliament as well as governmental and civil service positions. The leaders were responsible for providing education and social services to their sect-members, which reinforced the loyalty towards the sect. By delegating these important functions to the religious communities, the state construction was made fundamentally weak. Rather than being controlled by the state, the religious sects in fact controlled the state. Religious affiliation became the citizen’s most important attribute and identity because their citizenship was connected to one of the recognized religious sects.
In a recent article published by Jurist Legal News and Research, Megan McKee, a University of Pittsburgh School of Law, law student discusses the history of Lebanon citizenship. McKee explains that current Lebanese law can be traced back to the transplantation of French civil law in Lebanon. When the Ottoman Empire was dissolved at the end of World War I, the Sykes-Picot Agreement partitioned the former Ottoman Empire into separate British and French mandates with France having the mandate over present-day Syria and Lebanon. The French disbanded the region’s existing governments, and in 1926 instituted a new Lebanese constitution strongly modeled after the French Third Republics civil code. Lebanon has been governed by what is essentially the French Napoleonic Code. The Code is remarkable for abolishing privileges based on birth and establishing freedom of religion. However, the transplantation of the Code in Lebanon was actually a step backward for Lebanese women.
McKee further explains that French law placed women under the complete control of their male guardians. Despite the French inspired Lebanese constitution’s attempt to distance Lebanon from its pre-colonial Ottoman history and place it in the “path to progress,” Ottoman law was far more progressive in terms of women’s rights. Under Ottoman law an adult woman was able to enter into contracts and use the court system independent of her husband. Women enjoyed a particularly more advantageous position in the area of citizenship rights under Ottoman law. An Ottoman law dating from the early 1800’s held that a woman had the right to pass on her nationality to her children, regardless of her spouses’ nationality as long as her child was born on Ottoman soil.
In the French Third Republic, married French women, even those of the age of majority were legally accorded that status of a minor. A married women’s legal status made her subordinate to her husband and made it impossible for her to enter into a contract or even defend herself in court without the presence or consent of her...
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