Miss Lebanon applications open throughout April, 'Lebanon Blues' tourism campaign billed sexist.
The American version of the tourism video, “Lebanon Blues,” which can be viewed online, has drawn the ire of several rights groups, some of whom are considering the manufacture of alternative videos selling the reality of a country in which women are still denied many of the rights enjoyed by men.
“We have witnessed a lot of these types of adverts on the streets and on TV, which demean us as women,” said Leen Hashem, who heads a group of female activists that contacted the Tourism Ministry with a letter of complaint over its new campaign.
“They depict us as housewives with long hair and perfect bodies. It’s demeaning to us as women in Lebanon when we still are treated as unequal human beings and when our freedoms are still violated,” Hashem told The Daily Star.
“We wouldn’t want these images to be delivered to people who don’t know Lebanon. These images are very untrue and insulting when you consider the reality,” she added.
Lina Abou Habib, executive director of equality organization Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action, said the advert was in line with other commercial campaigns which portray Lebanon as a country where women are happy to be treated as sex objects.
“This is consistent with what the state has been promoting Lebanon as since the war. More precisely, this advert is consistent with [the government] trying to sell Lebanese women to men from the Gulf,” Habib told The Daily Star. “Ever since the war, the government has been totally oblivious to what it means to build a state where people have rights. It’s all about cheap tourism and women as objects rather than citizens.”
Women in Lebanon are still denied the right to transmit their nationality on to their children, a privilege enjoyed by Lebanese men. There are still no robust legal provisions against domestic violence against women, despite long-running civil society campaigning.
“In 2011 in Lebanon, [women] don’t have the right to transmit their nationality, yet [the government] has no inhibitions in selling women as sex objects,” Habib said. “What more proof do you want that every single member of a government that gave this advert the OK is basically perverted?”
In their letter to the ministry, the authors accused the government of offering a schizophrenic version of Lebanon. “We ask you as the Ministry of Tourism either to: stop this two-sided stance whereby you promote Lebanon as a country for sex tourism while sex workers in it suffer and are exploited horribly and subjected to humiliation and injustice; or launch a campaign to organize the work of these women and legalize it with proper supervision,” the letter said.
“We would like to ask about the position of the Ministry of Interior regarding such an advert published by its close associate, the Ministry of Tourism, at the very same time it is striving to impose the ‘decency law,’ watching Lebanese women’s bodies and fining them in case they “cross the red line of decency,’” the letter added.
Hashem said her group would pursue action against the campaign, possibly with videos detailing the harsh realities of life for many women in Lebanon.