Focus on Lebanon | Attitudes Towards Policy Change Topic Brief

Publication Date: 
18 Feb 2010

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ATTITUDES TOWARDS POLICY CHANGE

This topic brief presents the main findings from the SWMENA survey in Lebanon on people’s attitudes towards policy change. The survey elicited opinions on possible law reforms that have the potential of improving the status of women in Lebanon. These include opinions on an optional civil marriage law, on introducing gender quotas in elected bodies, and on reforming the citizenship law.

Opinions on Introducing a Civil Marriage Law in Lebanon

The introduction of a civil marriage law in Lebanon is considered to be a much-needed reform that would make laws governing marriage and family more favorable towards women. Currently, personal status laws in Lebanon are governed by different religious provisions, with each sectarian group having its own set of laws that are mostly patriarchal in nature. Survey data shows that majorities of both men and women are opposed to the introduction of civil marriage in Lebanon.

When asked if they supported the introduction of an optional civil marriage law in Lebanon, more women (64%) than men (56%) said they opposed it (Figure 1).

The gender split on this issue is not as significant as differences in opinions that are due to respondents’ sectarian identities. Certain religious sects in Lebanon oppose civil marriage more than others: at least seven in 10 Muslim Sunnis and Muslim Shias oppose civil marriage regardless of gender.

Christians are more in favor of adopting an optional civil marriage law with a slim majority of women (55%) supporting it and 63% of men also in favor. This may be due to the difficulty of obtaining a divorce especially among Catholics who tend to change their sect to be able to get an easy divorce. Among the Druze sect, a majority of women oppose the law, and men are split 50-50.

The data suggests that as women’s education levels increase, support for civil marriage increases as well. In fact, only those who have completed a university education or post-graduate studies have a majority support (54%) for the introduction of a civil marriage law. All those who have less than a university education oppose the introduction of a civil marriage law thinking that Lebanon should not introduce any form of civil marriage and must maintain marriage laws as they are (Figure 2). For those with no formal education or incomplete primary education, support for civil marriage is lowest (18%). This may be showing that as education levels increase, women become more aware of what rights a civil marriage guarantees for women and thus become more supportive of such a law.

The same relationship holds for surveyed men: men who are highly educated express more support for civil marriage than those who are less educated. Yet among men, there is a majority support for civil marriage starting from those who have a completed secondary technical education. The level of support for civil marriage among the highest educated (completed university education or higher) stands at 58%, higher than the level of support among women with a similar education level (54%).

When comparing women who are interested in matters of politics and government to those who are not, we find that support for civil marriage is higher among women who are very or somewhat interested (40%) in politics compared to those who are not too interested or not interested at all (30%) but their support remains short of a majority. This is perhaps a reflection that women who show a high interest in politics are ridding themselves from the roles traditionally drawn for them by society, including religious ones, which may explain their support for a non-religious form of marriage.

Similarly, women who are active in civic organizations demonstrate a higher level of support for civil marriage than those who are less civically active. Nearly 51% of women who report being members of 3 organizations or more support the introduction of a civil marriage law. Those who are not members of any organization show a very low level of support (only 31%).

Similarly, women who report taking part in different activities over the past 12 months (such as participating in protests, contacting a public official, etc…) to express their views are more likely to support the introduction of civil marriage than those who do not. Fifty-two percent of women who have done three different activities to express their views support the introduction of civil marriage compared with only 32% among those who have not taken part in any activity over the past 12 months.

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