Traditional vs. Modern

In many ways Lebanese society has become very modern because of it’s similarity to certain cultures in Southern Europe and it’s cultural and idealogical ties to Europe through France. Lebanon is very ethnically and religiously diverse with major Arabic and European cultural influences which create a unique environment. While France is the country that most recently occupied Lebanon there have been many more over the last several thousand years. Thus the culture of Lebanon is really a cross culture influenced by all of these various civilizations. Despite the great diversity in Lebanon the people have united and created a common culture that serves as the glue holding this beautiful country together.  Lebanon has deeply rooted traditions that are still very prevalent in the country today. Some traditions have evolved and merged with the modern world, while others strive to stick to their roots. Read on to explore some of these exiting traditions with me!

MARRIAGE & FAMILY LIFE:

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Family life is very important in the Lebanese culture. Family functioning is associated with the values of collectivism in the Lebanese society. One person’s family functioning is indicative of their individual status and identity.

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Because financial independence is customarily a prerequisite for marriage, men often wait to marry until their late 20s or early 30s. Women usually marry in their early 20s. Christians in Lebanon are generally opposed to divorce, but divorce is allowed according to Islamic law. Lebanese law provides for each religion to have a separate court system to handle matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance, according to the varying customs.

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One important expectation of family loyalty is nepotism, where family members are expected to find employment for each other, in order for its family unit to function and survive. Cousins and other relatives are expected to have close personal relationships. In fact, cousins are generally as close as brothers and sisters. The average household size ranges between 3.9 and 4.9. Urban families are usually smaller than rural families.

Discipline is strict, and children show respect for their parents and other elders. The father is considered head of the family, while the mother generally takes care of the home and children. Many women who work outside the home do so out of economic necessity. Unlike Western societies, parental control does not stop at the age of 18; instead, it continues for as long as the child lives in the father’s residence or until the child marries. In some Lebanese families, male children are favored to daughters and are given special privileges. When the first boy has been given birth to, the married couple is no longer addressed by their given names alone but is also called by the name of their son – “father of x” and “mother of x”.

WOMEN IN LEBANON & GENDER ROLES:

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Here are some pretty exciting and illuminating statistics regarding women in Lebanon…

As of 2012 3.1% of government positions were held by women.

As of 2010 53% of females over the age of 25 had a secondary education.

As of 2011 22.6% of women were out in the work force in some capacity.

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Due to the large number of officially recognized religions in Lebanon, Lebanese family matters are governed by at least 15 personal statute codes. Lebanese women have legal protection that varies depending on their religion. Marriageable age can be as young as 12.5, polygamy is allowed if the male of the family is Muslim, parental authority belongs to the patriarch of the house and legal guardian of all children, and female children receive less inheritance than a male child would. Children born to a Lebanese woman and a man from another country will not have their children granted Lebanese nationality.

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Local and regional NGOs (non-governmental organizations) have helped to increase awareness of violence against women in Lebanon. Government policies regarding this are poor however, and attempts to improve this area have been met with resistance. Lebanon’s laws do not recognize the concept of spousal rape, and attempt to add this to law have been attacked by Lebanese clerics.

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The roles of women have traditionally been restricted to those of mother and home-maker. However, since the 1970s Arab societies have allowed women to play a more active role socially and in the work force, basically as a result of the manpower shortage caused by heavy migration of men to Persian Gulf countries. In Lebanon the percentage of women in the labor force has increased.

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Notwithstanding the persistence of traditional attitudes regarding the role of women, Lebanese women enjoy equal civil rights and attend institutions of higher education in large numbers. In 1983 women constituted 41 percent of the student body at the American University of Beirut. Although women in Lebanon have their own organizations, most exist as subordinate branches of the political parties.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

In 2013 Lebanon launched a powerful ad campaign against domestic violence. The Lebanese nonprofit organization KAFA sponsored this campaign. The images depict women who have been hit or strangled. But….

Their wounds mimic the shape of the audio waveforms of words used against them: “whore,” “slut,” and “bitch.”

“Words hurt,” read the ads. The campaign calls light to the unseen scars left by verbal abuse. KAFA, which translates in Arabic to “enough,” provides a helpline number on each image.

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Almost a year to the day after these ad campaigns were launched the Lebanese government finally answered their pleas. On April 1, 2014 Lebanese parliament passed a bill to protect women and family members from domestic violence. However, Lebanon’s laws still do not recognize the concept of spousal rape which has recently sparked a series of protests.

Check out this article to learn more about the bill and the protests that happened as a result.

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