The Communication Arts Department organized a conference titled: “Honor the Penal Code! Secure Her Haven”, under the auspices and presence of H.E. Minister of Women Affairs Jean Oghassabian. The event featured, in addition to H.E. Oghassabian as main guest speaker/s: Colonel Joseph Mousallem, Director of Public Relations Division of the Internal Security Forces, representing the Director-General of the ISF General Imad Othman; Mrs. Fatima Al Hajj, an activist and a lawyer from Kafa, and Dr. Hassan Youssef, a consultant/strategist from UNGC -United Nations Global Compact. The event was presided over by AUST President Hiam Sakr, and supervised by the Chairperson of Communication Arts Department Dr. George. The conference was planned by the students of the M.A Program of the Communication Arts Department, under the direction of Mrs. Lilian Karam.
Dr. Farha said, after a promotional video screened for the purpose, that the high degree of violence against women and domestic violence in general in our country is really shocking. This recurring ailment has led to the organization of such a conference at AUST to discuss this psycho-social issue that has national implications. He said that “this ailment is generally hidden; women that are discriminated against are usually silenced, excluded and even secluded to the extent we rarely hear of their stories or hear them shout out their suffering. Once they decide to come forward with their case, the Lebanese law generally does not offer sufficient means for their protection or their pertinent families. We are lacking reform, prompt implementation on the legislative level in spite of civic and societal efforts.” He said that AUST champions gender equality and that its president has been active in promoting and raising awareness of this. He concluded that these private efforts are to be complemented by the consequent legislative, modern reforms required to safeguard women’s protection and champion their rights and their respective families.
Minister Jean Oghassabian went through an exhaustive analysis of the law and projects of law that have been prepared in this regard, and in record time. He said, “Women issues are human issues and concern men more than women. We are dealing with gender inequality and this is due to incongruities in actual established Lebanese laws that require specific reform. It is a law issue that has to do with the mentality and tradition – the attitude of some groups that happen to stereotype and categorize women, not forgetting the very implementation of the law and how the judiciary deals with this. I personally think that society as a whole has a major role to play in this respect. At the ministry level, we have a team and we deal with a vast amount of entities, who in turn make huge efforts in this regard. The cabinet has approved many reforms and much is needed to be done. Gender equality has been restored. But more needs to be done in other laws such as in the fatherhood issues, harassment, the labor and wages issues. As far as quota of women in municipal elections is concerned, some progress has been made.” The minister said that 30% of public servant are now women, and that cooperation with civic societies and NGOs has generated mutual benefits all along.
Colonel Mousallem of the ISF, in turn, spoke of the great reform efforts by the Ministry, and hoped for pertinent and speedy implementation of women protection. He stated that the ISF has issued a promising strategy (2018 to 2022) that deals with women, their rights and their empowerment and consequent protection. “We must emphasize safety and security first, promote civic society cooperation, then the very protection of human rights, and finally enhance accountability, and further more update and upgrade our talent and professionalism at the national level. Our society is now more secure. We have a conviction that we cannot progress if we don’t extend our hands to all sectors in society. Law is at the service of our community. Our motto is to serve, to trust and to share. We have made progress in lessening crime and assaults and in record time. In spite of crisis at many levels. We have women volunteers now. Training and skill building among women for the treatment and service of women has been achieved. We have two hotlines 1744 and 1745 for complaints” Mousallem stated.
Dr. Youness from UNGC said that the best way to empower women is through entrepreneurial efforts in the era of mobile and digital revolution, and in ways that are most accessible for women. As for the UNGC, “it is a 2015 United Nations initiative with the purpose to achieve sustainable development by 2035. Gender Equality is objective number 5.” He argued that the private sector has a major role to play in this regard, along with government guidance and major stakeholders taking active part, in order to free and empower women and to facilitate their entrepreneurial encounters. He said that there are many on-going efforts with the UNDP to establish valid economic repercussions of gender violence as viable statistic.
Mrs. Al Hajj, from Kafa, stated that “ever since 2008, we have prepared the terrain for the protection of women, and we appreciate the efforts of the Ministry, ISF and AUST as well in this regard. There are needs and cooperative efforts that are to be underlined in complementing and advocating for women’s cause.” She continued, “The sexist mentality is one of our main problems. Laws reflect the society we’re in. Women are facing sexist legislation: Work must be done in gender equality and human rights.” She informed the attendees that as of 2013, the first women-related law was issued: A part of it has to do with punishment implementation and the second part is ensure women’s protection. Al Hajj then delineated Kafa’s efforts in this regard, she said, “Kafa has done massive work in supporting, treating and defending women who have become victimized by both the law and the society. Kafa legal efforts have prompted all civil organizations to continue their own labors in defending, protecting and championing the cause of women in all realms.”
At the end of the conference, Plaques of Appreciation were delivered to the guest speakers and to women who had campaigned for the protection of women equality and rights in society. A collective photo sealed the event.