Sherifa Zuhur


In this article, I reflect on the proposed Lebanese civil marriage law, which initiated a political crisis in Lebanon in March of 1998 and was followed by an indefinite shelving of that proposed law. Many Westerners assume that women in today's Middle East passively submit to extreme male chauvinism and glaring legal inequalities. In fact, Middle Eastern women have been actively engaged in a quest for empowerment and equity through legal, educational, political, and workplace reforms for many decades, and through publication of their writings in some countries for over a century. Although women's rights were at stake in the proposed law, it is curious that many failed to perceive the connection between legal reform and women's empowerment. Those who understand this linkage only too well are the most frequent opponents of such legal reform, arguing that it will destroy the very fabric of society and its existing religious and social divisions.

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