The legacy of female activists who bravely participated in the sit-ins against the former regime, handed out thousands of anti-Gaddafi fliers and transported home-made explosives is now virtually lost.

Little by little, female reporters who once took part in bringing the news of the revolution to every home are melting away and their courageous stands are being forgotten.

The legacy of female activists who bravely participated in the sit-ins against the former regime, handed out thousands of anti-Gaddafi fliers and transported home-made explosives is now virtually lost.

Little by little, female reporters who once took part in bringing the news of the revolution to every home are melting away and their courageous stands are being forgotten.

The uprising against Gaddafi’s tyrannical regime was sparked by mothers of Abu Salim Prison inmates (mostly Islamists), who staged a weekly protest in front of North Benghazi Court demanding freedom for their loved ones.

Women disappear from public life

But women seem to have disapperead from the political scene. During the first three days of the anti-government demonstrations, women’s participation was deliberately ignored and the most-watched TV network Al Jazeera only hosted male guests to talk about the revolution as if Libyan women do not exist.

The revolution’s media also focused mostly, intentionally or unintentionally, on depicting Libyan women as being only mothers of martyrs rather than brave female rebels. Those women who stood bravely against Gaddafi and their just cause was supported by only a handful of Islamists. Now Islamist movements are shouting aggressively against themIn some demonstrations, certain Islamist protestors have even installed barriers to separate women from men, according to attorney and activist Abir Imnina.

Post- Gaddafi administration betrays women

Many women began to feel disappointed by the so-called ‘revolution’ soon after it cemented itself with a new government.  “Any current law inconsistent with Sharia, such as the Polygamy Law, will be repealed,” said former Transitional Council Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil on 23 October 2011, in his ‘liberation speech’.

“It was not a liberation speech, but an insult and a repression speech,” says Hanan, a married female elementary school teacher in her late thirties.

“He did not express any consideration for us and he stole our happiness. I was waiting for his speech with my sister with tears of joy in our eyes only to be given away to rebels as spoils. When we looked to one another again, joy was all gone,” recalls Hanan.

Jalil, previously considered by Libyans as an altruistic and balanced person who succeeded in leading the Council before the October 23 2011 speech, was quickly mocked by bloggers from both sexes for his weakness.

Victims of rape ignored and shamed

After the fall of Gaddafi, many Islamist factions sought to deny women a public participation role. They focused on Gaddafi’s sexual scandals, recounted in “Les Proies: Dans le harem de Kadhafi” (“Prey: In Gaddafi’s Harem”) by French journalist Annick Cojean, a collection of testimonies from women raped by Gaddafi. Stories of female bodyguards and revolutionary nuns further tarnished the reputation of women.

This tactic paid off and facilitated the issuance of several decisions barring females from enrolment in the country’s military and police academies. Female victims of rape who were previously influential in the political struggle against Gaddafi are now treated as a taboo subject.  Dr. Siham Sarkioh, who handled the issue, was the subject of harassment and accusations when she attempted to have sexually abused women reintegrated into society. For many victims of rape, the possibility of justice remains vague and inexplicit. Most evidence is either destroyed or has ‘never existed in the first place.’

Fatwa for Libyan women who marry foreign men

Women’s Rights were further undermined when in March 2013 the Office of the Mufti of Libya, Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ghariani, issued a fatwa against the law that allows Libyan women to marry foreigners according to specific conditions. The office of Libya’s highest religious authirity said women lack the capacity to choose rightly and that such marriages allow Libyan women to marry persons from other sects.

Minister of Social Affairs Kamela Khamis Mazini defended the Mufti’s decision and said the many cases of marriages between Libyan women and men from neighboring countries after the revolution were unjustified. “Those men only wanted to be granted the right of abode in Libya,” said Mazini.

At the same time, Mazini defended the marriages between Libyan men and foreign women saying, “It is permitted by Sharia and we cannot prohibit it.”

Women football team denied right to play in tournament in Germany

Now the Libyan streets are filled with this slogan: ‘It is ordained by God that women should stay at home’, a phrase heard by Libyan women as a result of the fatwas issued on the pulpits of Libyan mosques by radical clerics.

The most recent fatwa was issued by Sheikh Salem Jaber in a Benghazi mosque. It led to withdrawal of the Libyan women’s football team from the 2013 Discover Football tournament held in Germany.

“This team is made of tall beautiful young women and women’s football is the last thing our country needs,” said Jaber, suggesting beautiful women cannot play sports. This despite the fact that former Transitional Council Chairman Jalil is a keen amateur footballer.

The militant Sunni Group Ansar Al Sharia had earlier issued this statement: “We strongly condemn women’s football since it contravenes Sharia and we call on the women participating in that team to stop and abide by the strict Islamic dress code.”

Civil society organizations and even Libyan Rights Watch were silent on the matter, despite the fact that the issue of human rights was highlighted during the revolution to help bring down Gaddafi.

Further fatwas for females

The Office of the Mufti, chaired by Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ghariani, issued many political fatwas recently in addition to mandatory fatwas directed to certain ministries and organizations.

Many of al-Ghariani’s fatwas were mocked on social media for tackling trivial matters such as the types and colors of headscarves, HD dress trousers and lingerie. However, after being posted on the internet, al-Ghariani’s official website Al Tanasoh (Good Advice) denied any relation with these fatwas.

In its fatwa on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW), the Office of the Mufti described the principles of this agreement as being unjust, destructive, designed to undermine the very foundation of the family, advocating immorality, irreligious and a blatant violation of Islamic maxims stated in the Quran and the Sunna.

According to female writer Wafaa al-Baw Issa, these fatwas were defended by veiled female members of the Al Qalam Movement, who described the women advocating CEDAW as being shameless, morally corrupt, infidels and debauched.

The National Congress’ Religious Endowments Committee also denounced what it described as “a document of deviation and rebellion against the principles of Islam.”

Women get 10 percent of seats in Parliament

This debate was used in the past as an excuse to undermine any plan to approve a 35 per cent quota of women for the Constitution Drafting Committee’s membership.

Islamists now control the majority of seats in the National Congress after replacing the members who resigned or those affiliated to the Liberal bloc thanks to the application of the Political Exclusion Law which was enforced by arms.

The plan to approve the 35 per cent quota ended in failure and women ended up with only a 10 per cent quota – six seats out of sixty in Parliament.