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Lebanon: Anger as MPs refuse to discuss women's quota proposal for 2022 elections

MP Inaya Ezzedine says move proves politicians only pay lip service to women's participation in Lebanon's political life 
More than 50 civil society and non-governmental organizations, experts and journalists, had advocated for the quota, the proposal for which had been submitted by Ezzedine (AFP)

Inaya Ezzedine, an MP for Lebanon's Amal Movement, walked out of a session of the joint parliamentary committees on Thursday after its members refused to discuss her proposal to introduce a quota for the number of women standing in next year's general election.

Ezzedine told the New Arab that she withdrew from the session because "the deputies refused the quota principle or even discussing the proposal at a time when they fill us with daily talk about the role of women and the necessity of their participation in public political life".

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The MP told the London-based website that the other committee members, including fellow Amal MP Ali Hassan Khalil, decided not to discuss the issue and move on to the next item on the agenda "in less than a minute".

When Ezzedine interrupted Khalil, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Elie Ferzli, who was chairing the committee, said: "We're running short on time, we cannot discuss these new details."

Visibly angered, Ezzedine then left the room, remarking how MPs "sugarcoat" women's issues and only pay lip service to women's participation in political life.

One woman cabinet member

The proposal to amend the electoral law and include a women's quota was developed by Fiftyfifty, an NGO that aims to promote gender equality in private and public sectors.

More than 50 civil society and non-governmental organisations, experts and journalists, had advocated for the quota.

The bill called for 26 reserved parliamentary seats for women out of the total of 128, with at least 40 percent of both men and women on candidates lists. 

The 26 seats were to be equally apportioned among prospective Christian and Muslim legislators.

Ahead of Thursday's committee meeting, Joelle Abou Farhat, the head of Fiftyfifty, told Now Lebanon that eight parliamentarians were ready to sign the bill.

Lebanese women have long found it difficult to make any headway into Lebanese politics, with only between three and six ever being elected in each of the past five parliamentary elections.

There is only one woman among Prime Minister Najib Mikati's 24-person cabinet. During his previous terms in office, beginning in 2005 and 2011, Mikati's cabinet included no women.