Rami Lakkis was born in Baalbek in the north of the rural Bekaa Valley in Lebanon in 1971. He remained in this region during his...
Persons with Disabilities in Lebanon: A recent survey conducted by the Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union (LPHU) estimated that 4 percent (or approximately 140,000) of the Lebanese population is disabled. Many disabled face rampant discrimination and face numerous challenges in obtaining equal rights and access. In 2000, the Lebanese government passed Law 220, which formalized the equal rights of persons with disabilities, outlining comprehensive policies across a wide variety of sectors. Unfortunately, the legislation lacked a clear mechanism for implementation, and to date, its policies and regulations have not been put into effect. For example, under Lebanese Law, all children with disabilities have the right to attend regular schools. But according to a study conducted by several local and international NGOs entitled “Disability and Inclusion in Lebanon” in 2007, the majority of children with disabilities are in special care institutions, and private schools have a policy of automatically eliminating students with disabilities. In terms of employment, while both private- and public-sector companies are obliged to employ specified quotas of disabled workers, the positions available often come with low wages and without health and social benefits.
Women’s Rights in Lebanon: Due to high levels of activism, Lebanon leads much of the region with regard to women’s rights, with strong representation of women’s organizations fighting against the scourge of honor killings, female circumcision, and other forms of gender-based violence. Despite these great strides, however, Lebanese women still continue to face discrimination and inequality within the national legal system, where for example, unlike men, current law prohibits them from passing along their nationality to their spouses or children. Women’s overall political participation is further hindered by a lack of representation in government. According to Human Rights Watch, between 1952 – when women won the right to vote – and 2009, only 19 women had served in the Lebanese parliament. In the June parliamentary elections, only 12 women ran for office and only 4 were elected out of 128 seats.
Youth Participation in Lebanon: Youth between 15-24 years old comprise approximately 18% of Lebanon’s overall population, and 28% of the workforce. Their participation in the political sphere, however, is limited by the Lebanese Parliament’s continued rejection of a billto reduce the voting age from 21 to 18.Potential candidates for government positions must also wait until they turn 25. Political and confessional divisions dominate both the political and media spectrum, which many youth see as detrimental to the Lebanon’s long-term social and economic development. Youth-driven initiatives such as the independent newspaper, Hibr seek to build public awareness on critical social, economic, environmental and public-interest issues. Other young Lebanese activists have formed youth movements using social media technology to organize and increase their network of followers. These include the Youth for Tolerance, Harakat Shabab al-Arzi (Cedar Youth Movement), and the Movement Against Political Parties in Lebanon.
Ethnic Tension in Lebanon: After nearly a half century of civil war and foreign occupation, divisiveness in politics and religion has come to define much of what is Lebanon, with the possibility of relapse into conflict being a constant threat. Deep sectarian divisions between Lebanon’s largest religious groups, Maronite Christians, Greek Orthodox and the Sunni and Shia Muslims – have led to violent conflict and constant tension. The effects of this history are particularly acute in the Beqaa Valley - located adjacent to the Syrian border, housing a diverse array of rival confessional groups - between the tightly clustered Christian and Muslim populations. A Syrian occupation between 1978 and 2005, and more recent attacks by Israel in 2006 and 2008, positioned the region as a convenient central hub for lawlessness, often leaving its inhabitants cut off from supplies, funding, and development initiatives. Beyond Lebanon’s internal sectarian divisions, additional ethnic tension results from the long-term presence of the Palestinian refugee community. Deeply entrenched discrimination, as well as lack of rights and access to basic services and employment for the Palestinians have resulted in an ongoing state of tension with the Lebanese host community.
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