Libyan Congress Fears “God’s Wrath” on Women Quota

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Libyan protesters shout slogans waving national flags during a demonstration on the Algeria Square to demand the removal of arms and the evacuation of unofficial armed groups and the implementation of the General National Congress (GNC)'s decision on 7 July 2013 in the Libyan capital Tripoli. (Photo: AFP - Mahmud Turkia)

By: Reem al-Barki

Published Friday, July 19, 2013

Tripoli – The past year has not been a rosy one for Libya’s General National Congress (GNC), the country’s first legislative authority elected following the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. Many obstacles have prevented the GNC from working toward such broader goals as stability, development, and reconstruction.

The year was marked by political developments plagued with problems stemming from the resignation of MPs and repeated threats to freeze the membership of entire parliamentary blocs. Of the GNC’s most important legislative duties, the body sought to elect a constituent assembly to draft a constitution that would later be put to a referendum, thus determining the form of the state and handing over power to a non-transitional authority.

Only days after the GNC began its work, the Islamist movement inside the congress began stirring up debates on religion, such as “the fear of God’s wrath over the presence of women” among them. In the meantime, the security situation deteriorated as armed militias that participated in the revolution against Gaddafi began to seize the reins of power.

Despite these obstacles, the GNC was able to accomplish many of its duties, the last of which took place this week with the passing of a law declaring that the constitution-drafting committee would be elected.

Tuesday, July 16, was not an ordinary day in the GNC. The predominantly liberal National Forces Alliance made a decision to freeze the membership of its 39-strong bloc in the 200-member body. The bloc claimed that the GNC was too preoccupied with issuing legislation that increased tension among Libyans while neglecting the crucial task of drafting a constitution. The Amazigh bloc, which demanded that the Amazigh language be inscribed in the constitution as an official language, threatened to follow suit.

Tuesday began with the resignation of GNC Deputy President Giuma Ahmed Atigha. Then, mid-day, the GNC passed the constitution-drafting election law that determined the shape and duties of the assembly. It also set up a quota of 10 percent for female seats.

This quota raised the ire of civil society organizations and activists. Many said that reserving only six seats for women is a disgraceful setback when compared to the GNC’s election last year in which women received 20 percent of seats.

Umm al-Iz al-Faresi, political science professor at the University of Benghazi, said that she expected this development because “Libyan women are dealing with a fossilized mentality.”

Faresi argued, “Six seats is an accomplishment at this point in time, especially if they are invested the right way whereby female candidates convince women voters.” She said that making an issue out of the women’s quota now will not help the current situation.

“We could have saved time if we accepted this percentage from the beginning and deprived them of the chance to accuse women of obstructing the work of the GNC as they claimed,” she said.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

Ghadafi made mistakes ,and that only prove that he is human . Libya will struggle for a period of time way beyond a decade before getting a leader as muamar ghadafi

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