Gendering state–citizen relations in Lebanon

The case of the Family Violence Bill 2014

This report examines the nature of interaction and engagement between Lebanese citizens’ collectives and the state on gender-specific matters, through the case study of the Family Violence Bill that was passed in 2014.

It analyses the practical ways in which civil society organised and engaged with the state to lobby for the Family Violence Bill prior to its passing. The report argues that the modalities of advocating for policy change on a gender-specific issue within the Lebanese confessional political system are very complex and not conducive to change. This is because it relates to matters of women’s rights and intimate social organisation within a complex and hierarchical system of power.

After exploring the gendered nature of citizenship and tracing a historical examination of the women’s movement in Lebanon, the report examines the intense lobbying efforts for the Family Violence Bill. Civil society’s efforts, spearheaded by KAFA, focused intensely on informal channels, such as outreach and work with media networks, key backers within the political system or through public mobilisation. As the issue touches directly on personal status matters, which religious authorities have legal power over, this presented an additional layer of institutional difficulty. While the objective of this report is not to make judgements regarding potential successes or failures, the approach taken proved effective in passing the bill, but not without setbacks.

With large-scale protests held in Beirut in September 2015 over a protracted garbage collection crisis, debates about the most effective means of political activism and citizen engagement have emerged in the country. Examining constructive state–citizen engagements is necessary to achieve successful and sustainable statebuilding and peacebuilding. This report aims to fill the knowledge gap on various formal and informal processes, realities and dynamics of state–society relations in Lebanon. The focus on state– citizen engagement over a gender-specific issue shows how an already complex situation becomes even more intricate when it is perceived as infringing upon established power structures and entrenched social norms.