Houda Ben A’amer, who was a senior figure in the General People's Congress of Libya, and who was widely criticized since having that post, became the first female to preside over the Interim Arab Parliament amid reports saying that she got that post “unopposed”.

No one may call this as a “victory to women”. This is, in fact, another incident when a woman is being “appointed” in a way or another. As a matter of fact, elections never took place in this case, while Article 2 of the charter upon which this Interim Parliament was based, says “the members of the Interim Arab Parliament should be elected…taking into consideration woman representation”. What is meant here by “taking into consideration woman representation”? Is that reflected by the fact that females in the parliament were assigned to the usual posts, social affairs.

What we would like to comment on is the statement delivered by Mr. Houda soon after being named as a president of the Parliament “unopposed”. “having this post, is the best answer for all the accusations made against Arabs saying that they discriminate against women,” she said.

It seems we have to remind Mr. Houda that those who make these “accusations” are indigenous people. They are victims of discrimination, exploitation and murder, unless Mrs. Houda wants to be part of the infamous chorus that considers those people as traitorous, only because they disagree with them. It has to be said that those making these accusation of discrimination against women are so keen to solve societal problems that undermine the bases of their societies. They are simply diagnosing the problem and looking for a solution, rather than leaving the society being eroded by its own problems.

Mrs. Houda, it seems, has to be reminded that her very country, Libya, like other countries, exercises discrimination against woman in all its forms. Libya deprives woman of all her rights as a human in the Law of Personal Status, and makes her a female-slave whose duties are to service, delight the man and deliver kids. Libyan woman is being discriminated against in the work place as well, she could be divorced arbitrarily and denied any financial or material portion upon separation.

Mrs. Houda, it seems, forgot that Libya issued one of the most weird discriminatory decisions, saying that Libyan woman, under the age of forty, is not allowed to travel abroad alone, without a close male relative (Mohram) accompanying her. This odd decision was later annulled due to the pressure exercised by the civil society in Libya and abroad.

Libya still, as most Arab nations, bans woman from passing her nationality to her own children. While Libya outdid others by issuing a law making “non-Libyans” not illegible to have free access to the educational system. This has led the children of Libyan women to be dismissed from schools.

There are many other examples of discrimination against woman in Libya, though the Green Document (which counts as a constitution) is considered one of the few constitutional documents in the Arab world that clearly equals between man and woman. But it seems that the constitutions in this region are all but slogans that contradicts with local laws concerning woman’s rights.

Such statements made by the likes of Mrs. Houda when they preside over senior posts (and we have plenty of such cases in Syria) are pure manifestations of the dominance of the patriarchal culture that tries to hide the fact of female subordination to male, and of the discrimination and marginalizing of women in our societies. It is the patriarchal culture that “imposes” upon those female officials to make such absolution deeds to a society dominated by males.

The likes of Mrs. Houda have to stop making such odd statements, and actually start using the posts over which they preside, to make a difference, or at least to acknowledge the existence of discrimination and violence against woman, as a first step towards searching for ways to get out of this gloomy tunnel.

By Bassam AlKadi, 23/6/2009, (The first female to preside over the Interim Arab Parliament: “Arabs never discriminate against women”)

Translated by Basel Jbaily

source in Arabic..