BEIRUT: The celebration of the 77th Lebanese Army Day on Monday saw more than 40 female officers graduate from the Lebanese Army Military Academy.
Lieutenant Officer Angie Khoury was the top cadet in this year’s class. She read the oath and all the graduates repeated it after her. The gender breakdown reflects “the progress of Lebanese society and the changing stereotypical image of women,” the National Commission for Lebanese Women said in a statement.
“It also shows that the Lebanese army appreciates the abilities and qualifications of women, and opens the door for them to access decision-making positions in the fields of security and defense,” the commission added.
The access of women to positions of responsibility in State security is one of the objectives envisaged in the national plan for the implementation of the decision of the UN Security Council 1325 on women, peace and Security.
A ministerial decree was issued in 1989 including enforceable provisions relating to the recruitment and service of Lebanese women in the military, in accordance with women’s equality rights, in addition to a defense law that grants all Lebanese the right to volunteer to serve in their country. military.
Over time, women’s roles were no longer limited to administrative work. According to the Lebanese Army’s Orientation Directorate, today “women hold many positions in combat units and they have proven themselves in all the tasks entrusted to them”.
The total number of female academy graduates reached 46 out of 121 graduates – 40 from the land forces, four from the air force and two from the sea force.
The Lebanese parliament saw a relative increase in the number of women members last May following the legislative elections, bringing their number to eight compared to six in 2018.
However, the positions of these women, whether in parliament, on TV stations or on social media platforms, have often been mocked, especially by their male colleagues or male activists and politicians on social media.
Last week, the Lebanese people witnessed an example of this treatment targeting female parliamentarians. Tensions emerged in parliament during the legislative session between MP Halima Kaakour of the Forces for Change bloc and President Nabih Berri. She asked Berri to speak while voting, but the latter refused and responded by saying, “Sit down and shut up.” Kaakour said, “What is this patriarchal behavior?
Kaakour’s comment provoked one of the Christian MPs during the session, who objected to the use of the term “patriarchy”, which was later dropped from the minutes. MP Paula Yaacoubian stepped in to explain the meaning of the term to MPs, saying it refers to the “condescending patriarchal system and has nothing to do with any religious figure in Lebanon”.
Tensions erupted again when MK Kabalan Kabalan mocked the surname of MK Cynthia Zarazir from the Forces of Change bloc. Yaacoubian defended his colleague by telling Berri that “a deputy from his bloc is harassing our colleague”.
A former minister, who spoke to Arab News on condition of anonymity, took a more critical view: “If some women seek populism and grandstanding in parliament, that’s their problem.
“We have worked as ministers and MPs and have never been bullied and teased. Berri deals with all MPs in his own way, but that doesn’t mean he only targets women.
But feminist Hayat Mershad believes that “the ruling class in Lebanon has a patriarchal tendency towards women”.
She said that the presence of women in public affairs is still limited, as the number of current female MPs represents 6.5% of the total number of MPs, adding that “this achievement came after years of struggle and violence targeting women trying to work in politics. ”
Mershad said, “Women are always criticized for being women, not for their ideas and proposals. This attitude exists and is linked to existing political parties. The party leader is considered the leader and father of everyone and leads those below him. Women and young people do not have the chance to assume a serious role in these parties.
Mershad described women’s participation in the military as “a very important step that we didn’t see before”.
She added: “We don’t know if it is because the number of men in the army is decreasing due to their low salaries, or because of the migration of men from Lebanon to work abroad.”
In a recent Carnegie Foundation research article, Joumana Zabaneh, Program Management Specialist at UN Women Lebanon, said that “the participation of women in the Lebanese army has had a significant impact on maintaining the confidence of the Lebanese people and the reduction of the risk of sexual harassment of women in Lebanon”. vulnerable groups. As the number of female members of the military grows, the institution becomes more responsive, inclusive and aware of gender issues.
The military said female recruits will be assigned “combat duties and combat support duties.” As they gain front-line leadership experience, they will gradually become eligible for leadership positions over the next 30 years and thus can be successful in bringing about major strategic transformations within the force.
He added: “Who knows, probably by 2050 a woman could become a chef for the first time.”