Libya women plunge into politics

2012-05-30 13:42

Tripoli - Showing that women in Libya can be much more than just sexy bodyguards or accessories to murder, women are dipping into politics in the hope of drafting a constitution which protects their rights.

"Women gave a lot of hard work to support the revolution, so why not enter the government now?" asked Samira Karmusi, who is running with the Justice and Construction Party.

The party brings together members of the Muslim Brotherhood with other Islamists and independents. Like most emerging parties, it wants to legislate in accordance with Sharia, or Islamic law.

Karmusi said the men in her party, most of them professionals and some like her husband former political prisoners, welcome women on board.

"We feel that we can do it, that we can make it," she told AFP.

Najia Gajem, a university lecturer who is running as an independent candidate in the district of Ein Zara, says not all men are so open-minded.

"Many of them think that women and their opinions have to stay at home. When you want to change this concept, you have to struggle," she said.

The two women are best friends and hope to become ministers or ambassadors.

But they are split on whether women have a chance of playing a major role in politics after decades of dictatorship under Muammar Gaddafi.

Equality

In June, Libyans are due to vote for a constituent assembly which will replace the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC).

The upcoming vote offers a good gauge on whether women's gains in the revolt that toppled Gaddafi last year were fleeting or the start of a tidal change.

The Forum for Democratic Libya and the Beirut-based Beyond Reform and Development have been taking the temperature through a series of workshops.

Most, the groups found, agree on "equality" as a constitutional principle.

But what equality means when it comes to women sparks heated debates between liberals promoting full-political participation and religious conservatives demanding women's exclusion, they reported.

Moderates seem to concur that women should be "equal" in rights as long as this does not come into conflict with Islamic law, especially on matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody.

Alaa Murabit, founder of the Voice of Libyan Women, said she is disappointed to see men and women slip back into their culturally accepted roles.

"What we need to do is reinterpret our religion," Murabit said, stressing that a major obstacle was the "misuse and misinterpretation of Islam".

Gender was an afterthought in the first anti-Gaddafi protests in the eastern city of Benghazi which were mixed until conservatives pushed the two sexes into separate camps again, she said.

Now, women are barely visible in the interim power structures.

Negative examples

The NTC is a sea of men, with just two women holding seats in the interim body. Likewise, Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib gave only two ministries, health and social affairs, to women.

Since the start of the Arab Spring, elections in the region have largely benefited Islamists and similar results are expected in Libya, which has a strong Sunni Muslim identity.

This is why Mubarit enlisted the help of Majida Fallah, one of the top figures in Libya's Muslim Brotherhood, and the kind of woman no one can argue with because she knows her religion.

"We thought that being a politician was a man's role. This is culture, not religion. As Muslims, we know that women have to play a part in running the country," Fallah said.

While Gaddafi had his own brand of feminism, restricting polygamy and pushing female participation in the workforce, society frowned on the high profile women around him.

Examples such as Gaddafi’s bombshell bodyguards and figures such as Huda Ben Amr - known locally as Huda al-Shannaga, the executioner - cast women in a negative light.

"These negative examples made women withdraw from public life," Fallah said.

"There is a stigma," agrees Murabit, adding that most women stayed out of politics because they didn't want to be seen as sexually loose or corrupt.

Mawada Bushnaf, a TV presenter in Libya's Hurra Channel, said it is critical for women to break with the past and run in the elections - even if men still reject the idea of a woman becoming president or prime minister.

 'Save their rights'

"Men do not accept to be led by women," she said.

"But if women participate in the national election, they will [help] write the constitution and save their rights," she said.

Her mother, Bushnaf noted, ran in Benghazi's local elections only to come under attack because she doesn't wear the hijab, or Islamic headscarf.

But in a sign that women do stand a chance, also in Benghazi, Najat al-Kikhia became on May 21 the first woman elected to public office.

The NTC has pledged to hold elections for a 200-member constituent assembly by June 19, with two-thirds of the General National Congress seat to be made up of independents and the rest going to candidates from political groups.

In January, the interim authorities dropped a 10 percent quota for women in its electoral law. Instead, parties are required to put an equal number of male and female candidates on their lists.

Critics like Mubarit call the measure a "cop-out".

Only 80 seats of the 200-member assembly are reserved for party candidates, with the remainder set aside for independents.

The consensus is that women who are working within political parties have a better shot because parties boast larger networks and deep pockets.

The real wildcard is whether women independent candidates - who represent just 90 out of 4 000 candidates overall - can succeed.

Most female candidates running as independents plan to campaign by word of mouth leaning on the contacts they have made as educators, doctors or directors of charity organisations.

Read more on:    muammar gaddafi  |  libya  |  north africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Bakoven - 12:59 PM
    Road name: Victoria Road Northbound
    DELAYS between Oudekraal and Bakoven
  • Wednesday Brackenfell - 12:54 PM
    Road name: N1 Outbound
    STATIONARY TRUCK in the left lane after the Old Oak Road exit
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia C3

The Nokia C3 Features a 2+ Megapixel Camera, A2DP, Bluetooth,...

From R1175.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself fascinated by something which could draw you in to obsessively exploring this subject in depth....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.