Raya al-Hassan is determined to make women in politics the norm.
Lebanon has appointed Hassan as the Arab world’s first female interior minister, Reuters reports. She is one of four recently appointed women cabinet members in the country who are shaking up the new government and bringing the nation’s politics closer to achieving gender equality.
Take Action: Encourage girls & women to follow their dreams
The interior minister typically oversees national security, immigration policies, and emergency management — and in Lebanon, the position has always been occupied by a man.
“This is a point of pride for all women and all the people who believe in women’s capabilities,” Hassan told Reuters.
First meeting today w/ HE @rayaelhassan, first female Minister of Interior in the Arab world and a good friend of Europe! Discussed important #EU cooperation w/ MoI, incl citizen-oriented policing, human rights training of security officers, GBV, election follow up etc.Good luck! pic.twitter.com/4E2VFHMF5f— Christina Lassen (@EUAmbLebanon) February 18, 2019
Hassan’s nomination is a big step forward for the country, which ranked the 10th worst in the world for women in 2018 in a World Economic Forum report and also appointed a man as minister for women in the last administration.
Some of Lebanon’s religious laws currently dictate marriage, divorce, and inheritance, enforcing a patriarchal society that restricts women from receiving equal rights.
Hassan, who previously served as the country’s finance minister, hopes that, in the future, women holding office isn’t considered unique. Nada Boustani Khoury, minister of energy and water, May Chidiac, minister of administration development, and Violette Safadi, minister of economic empowerment of women and youth, will work alongside her.
In her new role, Hassan plans to focus on helping domestic violence survivors, who face ongoing physical and mental challenges after suffering abuse. It’s estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. In the majority of countries with available data, less than 40% of the women who experience violence seek help. Lebanon passed the Law on the Protection of Women and Family From Domestic Violence in 2014 but it didn’t criminalize all forms of domestic violence, including marital rape. An unreliable criminal complaint process also stops many women from reporting their cases.
"Police posts in every village or city of Lebanon have to listen to abused women and take in consideration women's complaints ... I will be strict about this issue," Hassan promises.
Hassan is ready to take on Lebanon’s biggest security challenges. She’s also committed to supporting Lebanon’s large Syrian refugee population. Of Lebanon’s nearly 1 million Syrian refugees, 41% of the young women were married before the age of 18. Girls who enter child marriages are 50% more likely to face physical or sexual partner violence and stay out of school.
“There are a lot of female interior and defense ministers in the world and they have proved their efficiency,” Hassan said.
Now it’s her turn.