What started as peaceful demonstrations against the Gadhafi regime in the beginning of 2011, turned into a war with a military intervention. After the expelling of Gadhafi, a period of low insurgency followed which escalated into civil war. Women played a crucial role in the uprising against the regime. Taboos were broken when women organized and participated in demonstrations, supported the rebel army, provided humanitarian assistance to victims of war and voiced their concerns and demands via social media.
The situation in Libya deteriorated in 2014. The legitimacy of the newly elected government was contested and the former General National Congress reconvened in Tripoli, leaving Libya with two governments. In October 2015 a new national unity government was announced by the UN. It needs to be seen whether this agreement will be effective as different groups already rejected it. ISIL and other fundamentalist groups benefitted from the internal chaos and enlarged their territory and influence. Their horrendous atrocities shock the world, including public beheading, abductions and torture. Women living in their territory face discriminative rules with harsh punishment and severely limited public participation. Scores of armed groups continue fighting over strategic areas of Libya. Oppositional voices, both from politicians, journalists and activists are silenced through violence.
Despite the major contributions of women, they are underrepresented in peace and decision making processes and main government institutions such as Parliament and the Constitutional Drafting Committee. Women are marginalized in society. They are subjected to religiously inspired legislation discriminatory to women, inhumane rules by religious extremist groups and they face daily harassment.
In spite of this all, women continue to demand their rights and inclusion. Women are fiercely fighting for the inclusion of women’s rights in the new Constitution. A major achievement of women’s organisations is the introduction of the so called “zipper list” system, which led to 30 seats for women in Parliament, out of 200 members. Civil society organisations raise awareness about social political empowerment of women and gender equality. Women play a crucial role in supporting victims of war, and in reconciliation and peace building initiatives.
One of the driving forces in Libya’s political transition was Salwa Bulgaighis. She was one of the founders of the Libyan Women’s Peace Platform, a partner within Women on the Frontline. Salwa played a very active role in the 2011 revolt against Colonel Qaddafi. On June 25, 2014, Salwa Bugaighis was stabbed and shot in her home in Benghazi, just after casting her vote in the Libyan general elections. She proved a brave leader and worthy advocate for a democratic Libya.
Read here more about the latest developments in Lybia