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A statement by the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, against Representative Paula Yacoubian, caused a sensation in the Lebanese public opinion, and widespread condemnation on social media, after he was described as “masculine” and insulting to women, as he used details from her personal life in an exhibition. A response to a political and legal debate.

During a session held by the new Lebanese Parliament to elect its committees, Yacoubian suggested that Berri hold a legislative session to discuss and vote on an “accelerated” law that she submitted this morning to amend “Decree 6433” related to Lebanon’s maritime borders, following developments related to Israel’s start of gas extraction. From the Karish field, which Lebanon considers part of its maritime borders and considers it a disputed area from which Israel has no right to extract gas.

The Lebanese parliament contains several women deputies.. an expressive image

“Her husband is our friend”

However, Berri, despite the expedited formula of the law, rejected Yacoubian’s proposal, given that the session is dedicated to electing parliamentary committees, as legislation is not valid before that according to the law, while Yacoubian made it clear that her request is to hold a legislative session following the committee election session, “similar to Several sessions were held after the committees were elected in previous councils to discuss urgent laws,” she said in her statements.

After leaving the session, Yacoubian spoke to the media about the details of Berri’s rejection of her proposal, to which Berri responded from within the session by saying: “Where was Paula when I was 12 years old, uncle who was confused about the issue of oil wealth? Her husband, her husband is our friend.”

In his speech, Berri added, “The ABC of legislation says there is no legislation during the election session. It seems that there are people who come to the assembly so that you can only see (for the review).”

Paula Yacoubian, Lebanese journalist and independent MP, arrives at Parliament to attend a session to elect...

Lebanese MP Paula Yacoubian

For her part, Yacoubian responded in press statements in front of the parliament, explaining that, “All that is in the matter is that I demanded a legislative session after the parliamentary committees election session. I spoke about order and the law. The issue of border demarcation cannot be postponed because our rights must be protected, and it seems that no one really wants to talk. On this subject and its serious discussion in Parliament, it seems that there is some hidden deal, which led to a nervous reaction in this way to my proposal, and the response to it went in all directions except in the right direction.”

Yacoubian described Berri’s words as “a very ugly male misstep that has no place in the law and the internal order that we were discussing. I was not present in the assembly when he spoke about me and my family, but his words are rejected and flawed, and all these insults I refrain from responding to, and I hope to comply.” within the limits of decency and respect, and to respect this council.”

Yacoubian wished that “we will be dealt with as women in the parliament, and we are now 8, as we are dealing with men. Do they say to men in parliament that we will not respond to you because we are your wife’s friends?”

Not the first time

This is not the first time that women in Lebanese political circles have been subjected to this type of discrimination, which is described as bullying or reaches the point of verbal abuse and degrading descriptions, in addition to stereotyping in a sexual space.

Yacoubian herself had a large share of these practices from various sides, the last of which was during the last session of the House of Representatives, where she was subjected to attempts to silence Berri several times, and was mocked by a number of deputies on a political background.

She had also previously received, during a television interview, accusations that affected her person, by former Minister Ghassan Atallah, after he accused her of accessing the prosecution in an “immoral manner,” to which she replied that “it is unreasonable whenever we criticize a political performance of someone who responds to us with issues of honor. Honor is not among the legs, but rather the head, and this is what you do not have.” After a widespread denunciation campaign on social media, Atallah apologized for his words in his tweets.

The same applies to journalist Joseph Abou Fadel, who was exposed to Yacoubian with words that were described as “masculine and insulting” during a television interview, in his defense of the President of the Lebanese Republic, Michel Aoun, whom Abu Fadel is considered close to him.

The Lebanese parliament also witnessed another incident in which Lebanese public opinion was agitated, after the former Deputy Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Elie Ferzli, used a sexually suggestive expression that was described as “verbal harassment”, in response to a note made by the former Minister of Justice, Marie Claude Najm, in error. In the form of a legal amendment, asking to cross out a phrase at the top of the page by saying, “We want to remove the sentence from above.” Al-Farzli replied, “Put it from above and put it below,” then burst out laughing amid the astonishment of the audience. Al-Farzali later justified that his words were “misunderstood and unjust.”

The archive of Lebanese political life abounds with this kind of discrimination against women, in statements or in dialogues and discussions, and the patriarchal discourse has been extended more than once to Lebanese female media professionals and journalists, who were subjected to insults live on the air and during the performance of their media work.

“masculine and patriarchal”

Consultant and expert on gender equality issues, Abeer Shabaro, says that what happened is an extension of the factor of women entering political life, which “has always been monopolized by men”. The role of women is in this site, so they deal with this kind of reaction, with a lot of patriarchy and patriarchy.”

The Lebanese parliament witnessed another incident, which was represented by a verbal altercation between Representative Ali Hassan Khalil, of the Amal Movement bloc headed by Berri, and the new deputy from the Changers Bloc, Firas Hamdan, against the background of Khalil calling him “Oh, my son” while criticizing him, which prompted Hamdan To reply, “I am your colleague, not your son.” In this incident, Shabaro saw another expression of “the mentality of the patriarchal hierarchy that governs the Lebanese parliament.”

Shebaro adds that this type of practice and moral violence against women has “become very common” in Lebanese political life and on social networking sites and does not provide a woman, whether opposition or with the authority, “and among its weapons is this masculine language, belittling women and making them attached to men, husbands or Father or brother, and say that a woman’s place is in the home.”

The marginalization of women in political life is an approach adopted by traditional political parties in Lebanon, according to the Lebanese expert on equality issues, “Even parties that nominate and bring women to parliament within their blocs do not provide them with a role, space or margin to exercise their role as women in parliament, in terms of responsibilities and roles Political and media appearances, and the most prominent example of discrimination against women within parties appeared during the parliamentary elections, where the parties themselves did not give their preferential votes to women in general, with the exception of cases within certain electoral battles. On the regulations, this is proven by numbers.

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri

Shabaro asks, “Let us suppose today that a young woman was watching what happened today with Paula Yacoubian and the way she was dealt with as a woman in Parliament. participation in political action.

Also, according to Shabaro, such practices would put pressure on the rest of the female parliamentarians, who may avoid speaking in many similar situations for fear of a similar situation. “This represents a suppression of women’s expression of themselves in the parliamentary and political scene, and a threat to democracy.”

‘They are not used to it yet’

For her part, the feminist activist and founding member of the organization (Fe-Male) Hayat Mirshad considers that “what we witnessed reflects superiority and authoritarianism in dealing with women, with the aim of diminishing their importance and value in a paternalistic manner, so we do not see this kind of communication with men by linking them to their women or their families.” questioning their behavior and interfering with details related to their personal lives or appearance.”

This political authority is historically known, according to Murshad, for its patriarchal stances, “but today they see a different scene of women engaging in the political sphere, arguing their opinion and opposing the decisions of the men of power, and they are not accustomed to the model of women opposing them from a standpoint of equals, so with the aim of silencing them, intimidating them and keeping them away from the realm. Politicians use these patriarchal and patriarchal methods, and accordingly, Yaqoubian was exposed to this, on the grounds that she is a woman and an opposition and her voice is loud, although these practices did not exclude women from within the parties of the ruling system.

These methods amount to extortion, because social culture, according to Murshad, “disgraces women with their private lives, their looks, and their associations with men, and this practice is witnessed in all spaces, including the political space in Parliament.”

In turn, Shabaro explains that a study by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) reveals that the entry of women, especially young women, into a patriarchal and controlled system of old-fashioned politicians, will make them more vulnerable to this type of patriarchal discourse, because these male politicians see political action Their land, and they do not accept young women confronting them, so the reactions are through this kind of talk, which is considered political violence against women, and it is one of the inequalities in global parliaments, and it is a global phenomenon and is not exclusive to Lebanon.

To limit this phenomenon, Shabaro pointed out that the International Parliamentary Union, of which Lebanon is a member, recommended setting an internal code of conduct for each parliament, dictating a specific way of behavior between representatives of different races, respecting the boundaries of fellowship and human rights, and the way of communication and communication, especially with women. And this is what the Lebanese parliament does not have yet.

As for the important breach that was achieved in this regard, according to Morshad, women did not remain silent about these matters, in addition to the fact that Lebanese public opinion has become supportive of women at this level, “and this is clear today, for example, through the great solidarity with Yacoubian on social media and in the media.” This is the result of awareness-raising that achieves results on this level, and this is an important breach in the face of a political system that does not develop its concepts and political action in return, which makes it an obsolete rule.”

For her part, Shabaro concludes that “when women are abused in this way and under the dome of Parliament more than once, this is a reflection of the policy of impunity that prevails with every violence practiced against women in society, and it contains a message to the public that violence against women is possible and available. Confronting this is done through more involvement of women in the political life in Parliament and the government to normalize the scene and get politicians used to dealing with it.