Disclaimer: this is not a generalization. I’m speaking only of my experience. Some women in Lebanon have lenient husbands or fathers who give them the freedom to do as they wish.
I grew up in a very religious household. My dad didn’t let me visit my friends. I could call them on the landline but my calls were monitored and time-limited. My dad would watch us walk to school from the balcony to make sure our heads were down when we walked. We had to dress a certain way, in certain colors. I won’t go into further detail because this post isn’t about exposing my parents and their strict rules. The point is, I thought my family was the only one with these rules. When I grew up, I found out that many of my peers suffered the same fate.
Stories vary from one family to another and some girls are given more freedom than others, but the truth is that in Lebanon at least, girls are controlled by their fathers growing up. Because of this, many girls settle for far less than they deserve in marriage, just to escape their parents. I know I studied in Beirut to escape my parents, but my dad still controlled me by giving me barely enough money to get through the week. After I graduated, things were better. I could go wherever as long as I was back by sundown, but I couldn’t go to far places so no trips outside of Tripoli and my allowance was limited as well.
When I got married, I thought to myself: now I will be free. Boy was I wrong! Besides the shackles of responsibility, my husband turned out to be very controlling. It took me years to notice it as it was so subtle and years to fight back. Right now I’m at a point where I have 20% freedom, but my husband claims he gives me 100% freedom. The problem is, in Islam, a woman is obliged to obey her husband as long as he isn’t ordering her to do something prohibited. My husband doesn’t order me to do anything I don’t want to do, but he won’t let me drive, go on field trips without my son, or spend my own money. He buys me a lot of things, necessities, and otherwise, but I would like to have the freedom to spend my money as I wish, even if I end up deciding not to spend it.
The problem is that the Lebanese woman doesn’t have an independent identity. When she is born, she is placed under her father’s agency, and when she gets married, she is moved to her husband’s agency. If she gets divorced, she is put back under her father’s agency.
It’s a good thing I have an American passport too, which my dad keeps with him locked away. I normally don’t expose these things but it is too common and so frustrating. In romantic novels, possessive controlling men are idolized. It’s just wrong. Being controlled is suffocating. What do you have if you don’t have freedom?!
Let me get something straight. Islam doesn’t condone men controlling women. Islam gives women plenty of rights, but Muslim men twist the Islamic rules to suit them to manipulate women into doing whatever it is they want. I’m speaking up here on behalf of all the women who are being controlled by their fathers or brothers or husbands. Something needs to be done. Women deserve freedom. Women deserve to be able to drive and come and go as they please and work and spend their money as they wish.
I got depressed today because I feel stuck. I know this sounds like a 3rd world problem because I have shelter, food, clothes, my son, and I’m so privileged on so many levels, but I don’t have my freedom. I bet if I’m back under my dad’s agency, he will become controlling over me again because he can. The culture allows it.
No matter what, I still have the freedom to think my own thoughts and express them on the blog. The blog/podcast/books are the only place where I have total freedom.
Are men controlling where you live?
Do women have social and economic freedom in your country?
According to Google:
Women in Lebanon enjoy social freedom compared to the rest of the Arab world. But when it comes to legislation, especially divorce and child custody, legal experts say it ranks second worst after Saudi Arabia in discriminating against women.
Lebanon’s current system of personal status laws violate women’s human rights, including to non-discrimination, equality in marriage, and at its dissolution, physical integrity, and health. These rights are all guaranteed in several international human rights treaties that Lebanon has ratified. Under international law all children are entitled to have their best interests be a primary consideration in all decisions made by official bodies concerning their welfare.https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/01/19/lebanon-laws-discriminate-against-women