Bridging the Gap in Lebanese Feminism

A Call for Intersectionality & Inclusion

The Kafala system is an oppressive, racist, patriarchal structure that exploits and abuses migrant workers that disproportionately affects women of colour. The system relies heavily on human trafficking and other organised crimes, exposing migrant domestic workers to severe human rights violations. Women of colour from South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have been lured and trapped by the system for several decades now without any real attempts towards  sustainable change . Migrant Workers’ Action believes that unless a new movement of solidarity and support emerges to amplify and include Migrant Domestic Workers in all human rights conversations happening in Lebanon, the status quo of abuse and exploitation under the Kafala system will continue unchallenged.

Throughout the years, Lebanon has developed an active and engaging civil society space advocating for women’s rights among many other issues. However, within the shadows of this flourishing civil society work, exists the persistent and problematic normalisation of racism and exploitation of migrant domestic workers through the Kafala system, which remains condoned and unaddressed. The Lebanese feminist movement has many challenges and barriers to tackle.  It is in this effort towards equity and liberation that the movement should adopt   an intersectional and inclusive approach including refugees, members of the LGBTQIA community as well as migrant domestic workers. 

The adversities women in Lebanon experience are harsh, unforgiving and cruel. For migrant domestic workers this reality is even more harsh. Their predicament is one of forced labour, racial, sexual and physical abuse in a legal system sanctioned by the government and normalised by the local population perpetuating a culture of impunity. Failing to take into consideration the intersections of migrant domestic workers may lead to the Lebanese Women’s Rights movement to be exclusionary thus capitulating to elements of the patriarchy. Migrant Domestic Workers are women of colour, who are marginalised by multiple systems of oppression, both in their country of origin as well as Lebanon. Addressing their needs and challenges requires the Lebanese civil society as well as international actors to adopt an intersectional approach to women’s rights, as it allows the movements to take into account the Migrant Domestic Workers’ multiple intersecting experiences and identities.

It is important to note that focusing on an intersectional feminist approach does not negate the existence of Lebanese women's struggles but instead offers a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to the struggle for women's rights within the country that include the migrant and refugee population. 

Migrant Workers’ Actions invites the  women’s rights movement to reach out to the  extensive networks of migrant domestic workers communities in Lebanon  and to build  bridges working  together towards achieving equity and freedom.