The Jusoor team joins many other actors in fully condemning the recent ban on Libyan women in the east of the country from travelling abroad without a mahram (male guardian). But it has been drawn to our attention that this ban has been replaced with another banning women and men (aged between 18 – 45) from travel for the purposes of security, but with no clear procedures over how this decree will be executed.
As a civil society organisation committed to independent policy research on socioeconomic empowerment projects for women, we view these ban(s) as a further step backwards in the realm of Libyan women’s issues. Freedom of mobility is crucial especially at a time of national hardship where many Libyan women are now finding themselves the breadwinners. This is why the work conducted by Jusoor is so fundamental to supporting women, and the next generation of youth facing socioeconomic difficulties further aggravated by a military conflict.
The Al-Mufaqira Journal was set up to underline the specific concerns affecting Libyans inside and outside Libya. These proposed travel ban(s) have shocked us all. It comes at a time where in other neighbouring countries like Tunisia, women are progressing and being increasingly included in decision-making roles for the benefit of the country. Even in more conservative states like Saudi Arabia, the removal of male guardianship laws is gaining greater national support since it has been demonstrated that the laws are not religiously founded but are rather culturally-ingrained patriarchal laws. The travel ban against Libyan women could be a first step towards the establishment of a system with complete male guardianship laws (like those that exist in Saudi Arabia). We must, therefore, be alert to the fact that these patriarchal laws will dictate the movement, choices and decisions of women, who are equal human beings and constitute half the country’s population.
Already for several years, some Libyan women’s mobility has been culturally curtailed due to social perceptions of unacceptability that women travel on their own. While it is true that a lack of transport infrastructure refrains mobility, there is no doubt that harassment, abuse and violence dictate Libyan women’s movements. The proposed travel ban(s) enshrine these cultural ills into law, which profoundly damages the prospect of a more inclusive and respectful society. The Jusoor team realise the dangerous direction certain officials are adopting, which is why we are acting by continuing our work and advocacy against discrimination, inequality and injustice.