Ensure voter registration is accessible to all women, regardless of their social status, including their marital status;
Promote an enabling public and political environment that is free from threats, harassment and reprisals for all women, to ensure their full and equal capacity to hold and take part in political campaigns ahead of the elections;
On 6 November, the Presidency Council suspended the country’s Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush from her post and barred her from travelling outside the country. The suspension has been made on grounds of administrative violations, after Mangoush told the BBC about the possible extradition of a new Libyan suspect wanted by the US over the Lockerbie bombing. However, the GNU rejected the disciplinary action, exposing once again the fragile political situation in Libya. Submitting members of the government to administrative actions a month prior to the elections does not provide a fruitful environment for women’s participation into Libyan politics. Moreover, this is not the first time Mangoush is the object of political harassment. In May she came under pressure to resign and was subjected to personal abuse, after she called for Turkish troops and mercenaries to leave the country. In order to achieve safe and fair elections, the GNU must take measures to support women and create an environment that is free of threats or reprisals and conducive to their participation in political and public life.
In his remarks to the Security Council, the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Libya, Jan Kubis, also stressed that it is crucial for Libya to promote women’s rights and empowerment together with their protection, particularly in the current political context. Furthermore, he expressed deep concerns about the environment of impunity in Libya when it comes to use of hate speech and incitement to violence, including sexual violence, against civil society activists and human rights defenders, particularly against politically active women.
Ensure the minimum quota of 30% for women as set out in the roadmap is implemented immediately;
Ensure that crimes of sexual and gender-based violence, including online violence against women, are investigated and those responsible are held accountable.
This November marked the one-year anniversary of the murder of political activist and prominent female lawyer Hanan Al-Barassi. Al-Barassi was known as a critic of the politics of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces and affiliated militias. She worked to challenge abuses against women and to fight corruption in Libya. Al-Barassi was shot in her car in Benghazi on 10 November 2020 shortly after she had voiced criticisms against Haftar's military operations. Investigations for the purpose of holding those accountable have yet to be initiated. The anniversary of Al Barassi’s murder is a reminder of the concerning pattern of violence against women who raise their voices to support justice and accountability over the past seven years. Moreover, the persistent lack of accountability in Libya enhances the climate of impunity in relation to violence against women and sends a message to other women in the public space to deter their political participation. For example, the whereabouts of parliamentarian Seham Sergewa, who was forcibly disappeared in July 2019, still remain unknown and her disappearance has yet to be investigated.
What is the problem?
Libyan women face many restrictions to their rights in both the personal and public spheres, with the current Libyan legal framework failing to promote gender equality.
Although Libyan women played a crucial role in the 2011 uprising, their participation in political life has suffered a setback in the following years. While in the 2012 elections, women made up 45% of all registered voters, this number slowly but surely decreased in the successive elections to reach 39%. This is mainly because Libyan women have faced, and continue to face, significant obstacles in exercising their right to equal participation in building Libya’s future. Key amongst these are current gender stereotypes and social norms that shape their roles and opportunities in society and the disproportionate impact of the conflict on women.
Since 2014, women have been particularly affected by the prevalent climate of insecurity and routinely subjected to attacks, which have effectively forced them out of public life. Women activists and politicians have been subjected to sexual and gender-based violence in the form of both physical and online violence, including threats, physical assault, abduction, as well as gender-related slurs and smear campaigns, causing them reputational damage to undermine the legitimacy of their work. Systematic reputational attacks on women and the resulting social marginalisation and psychological trauma have caused women and women’s rights defenders to withdraw from both public and political spaces. As a result, voices raising the challenges faced by women are scarce and women remain underrepresented in public and governmental institutions. While under the LPDF Roadmap, the interim executive authority has committed to 30% participation of women in the government, women’s current representation remains only at 15%.
What you must do about it
Better representation and gender balance in politics are essential for a properly functioning democracy. Therefore, equal and meaningful participation of women in politics must be guaranteed in all fora aimed at laying the foundations for Libya’s transition to peace, stability and development. To guarantee this, you must:
- Ensure voter registration is accessible to all women, regardless of their social status, including their marital status;
- Promote an enabling public and political environment that is free from threats, harassment and reprisals for all women, to ensure their full and equal capacity to hold and take part in political campaigns ahead of the elections;
- Ensure the minimum quota of 30% for women as set out in the Roadmap is implemented immediately;
- Ensure that crimes of sexual and gender-based violence, including online violence against women, are investigated and those responsible are held accountable.