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Parliamentary presence sticking point for Lebanon's women

Although Lebanon is considered a pioneer country in terms of female empowerment, women are still timidly represented in politics, as these usually access parliament following the death of their relatives.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (L), Sunni Muslim politician Saad al-Hariri (C), leader of the anti-Syrian alliance, and Education Minister Bahia al-Hariri greet supporters during a parliamentary election campaign at al-Hariri's house in Beirut May 21, 2009. Lebanon's parliamentary election on June 7 is expected to be a tight contest in which Hezbollah and its allies are hoping to reverse the slim majority held by an anti-Syrian coalition that enjoys U.S. and Saudi backing. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi (LEBAN

Only a small number of women have made it into Lebanese politics, and often after the death of a relative. Illustrating this point is the popular saying that Lebanese women enter parliament wearing black. In spite of its relative openness, Lebanese society is still dominated by a patriarchal culture, which makes the path to government positions and parliament a daunting challenge for most women.

Only four women belong to the current Lebanese parliament, comprised of 128 members: Sethrida Geagea, who is the member of parliament for the Bcharre region; Gilberte Zwein, who has earned her place by running in Keserwan on the ticket of Gen. Michel Aoun, who heads the Change and Reform bloc; Bahia Hariri, who is a Saida member of parliament and member of the Sunni Future Movement; and Nayla Tueni, who won the Greek Orthodox seat in Beirut. 

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