Violence against women in Libya

Women conditions and the need for legal protection


A text from the Libyan League for Human Rights.

1. It was with great concern that the Libyan League for Human Rights took note of the report issued by Human Rights Watch, "A Threat to Society? Arbitrary Detention of Women and Girls.." following its working visit to Libya during which it examined the real situation of women, and particularly of those unfortunates who are incarcerated in the prisons that the Government designates as “social rehabilitation centres”.

The report, despite the League’s reservation on some of its conclusions, dealt with these centres in a highly professional manner, stating that “the Libyan Government is arbitrary detaining women and girls in "social rehabilitation" facilities for suspected transgressions of moral codes, locking them up indefinitely without due process... the Government routinely violates women’s and girls’ human rights, including those to due process, liberty, freedom of movement, personal dignity and privacy. Many women and girls detained committed no crime ...they are there for no other reason than that they were raped" and instead of punishing the perpetrator, it is the victim (woman) who is incarcerated.

2. The report suggests an extension of the phenomenon of corruption, in Libyan society, and of violence against women that involves physical, sexual and psychological violence, including rape, sexual assault, molestation, harassment and intimidation in the work place. The female victims of such acts of aggression often pay the price of the moral depravity of their aggressors, finding themselves imprisoned for no reason other than their status as women who, belonging to deprived sections of society that have been impoverished by the State’s policy, are left prey to the whims of venal "officials" exploiting their positions to usurp public assets and use them for various forms of economic and social corruption, including violence against women and the perversion of social morality.

In fact, the State’s policy, controlled by these depraved “officials”, has led to the proliferation of corruption in all the principal national institutions, thereby entailing widespread poverty which is the main obstacle to the enjoyment of economic, social, civil and cultural rights. This policy of impoverishment has resulted in record levels of inflation, a tremendous depreciations in salaries and wages and high rates of unemployment, especially among young men whose consequent financial destitution has made them reluctant to marry, thereby creating a large social category of spinsters who are deprived of the pride and joys of motherhood and the foundation of a family.

These are the principal factors that have facilitated the subordination of social morality to the dictates of wealth and power, monopolized by a corrupt minority. This situation has made it extremely difficult for many Libyans to merely enjoy human dignity in their daily lives.

3. The Libyan women languishing in prisons are the principal victims of this widespread political, economic and social corruption, enriching a minority and impoverishing the majority, which will continue to make the lives of the majority dependent on the “generosity” and “charity” of that minority until there is a change in the present equation in which, according to estimates by anti-corruption organizations, a minority comprising less than 8 % of the Libyan people exercises direct or indirect control over 70 % of the national income while the remaining 92 % of the population shares only 30 % of that income.

This obscene and iniquitous wealth in the hands of a minority, rendered even more powerful by its usurpation of the instruments of virtually absolute authority through marginalization of the judiciary and the consequent impunity that the members of this minority enjoy, has shattered social cohesion and weakened many sections of society, especially those that are materially and intellectually the most vulnerable.

It is also the basic cause of the continuous violations of human rights, and particularly economic, social and cultural rights. To quote only one example, specialized international financial sources have estimated the wealth of Mr. Muhammad Ali Al-Huweij, Deputy Prime Minister, at US $ 1.42 billion, while the official salary for his post amounts to no more than US$ 500 per month (Arabian Business, 21?28 August 2005).

This private fortune of Mr. Al-Huweij could cover all the State’s salary payments, disbursed on time and without delay, to its employees for a period of two full years. Such a vast and unprecedented disparity in the distribution of the national wealth, a large proportion of which is monopolized by a minority, constitutes a dangerous violation of human rights due to the social, political and moral consequences that it entails.

This unequal distribution of income, and consequently of opportunities, is no longer acceptable since it gives rise to feelings of frustration and despair that engender the numerous social ills to which any society is subject when faced with such a disparity in standards of living. This extreme disparity in the distribution of income explains the high crime rate in a wide variety of spheres, as well as the unprecedented increase in the trafficking and consumption of narcotic drugs, the trafficking in persons and the moral decadence, which should, therefore, be taken into consideration in order to formulate a policy designed to identify the root causes of the social problems instead of simply incarcerating their innocent victims (women) in prisons.

4. The League condemns all forms of violence against women and calls upon the Government to shoulder its responsibility to protect women from all acts of violence and to investigate and prosecute such acts irrespective of the identity or status of their perpetrators and regardless of whether such acts are committed by the State or its agents or by individuals, including relatives of the victims. The League is also calling for the female victims of any form of violence to be given opportunities for equitable and effective legal redress, through the judicial system, against any harm that they might suffer or to which they might be exposed. The League likewise wishes to emphasize that poverty, which constitutes a contemporary form of slavery, is the most odious manifestation of denial of all economic, social and cultural rights since there is a direct and close interrelationship not only between unequal distribution of income and high rates of poverty but also between levels of impoverishment and destabilization of the social structure.

The lack of equality of opportunity for women signifies real discrimination against them and the State should refrain from such discrimination by adopting a policy of equal opportunities to ensure that women and other sections of society enjoy all their rights. The time has come to break down the inequitable economic, political, social and cultural barriers against women and provide them with opportunities to fulfil their latent potential. However, women will never be able to achieve this goal unless the State recognizes, in practice, their ability to do so and acknowledges the need to eliminate the manifest and disguised discrimination and prejudices against them, as well as the tendency to regard women as incapable of making an effective contribution to social development. To this end, the League hopes that the State will rapidly correct the economic imbalance underlying this disgraceful social situation by promulgating equitable and humanitarian rules for the distribution of the benefits of national resources in such a way as to ensure equal opportunities for all in a climate of transparency and legal accountability. Pending the achievement of this objective, the League urges the State to launch an extensive and earnest countrywide campaign to stimulate public awareness of the violence practised against women and the social and moral need to condemn such violence and to organize training programmes and courses to familiarize public officials with the inhuman aspects of the violence practised against women, which constitutes a gross violation of their human rights, on the understanding that such training would target, in particular, law-enforcement officials and providers of legal, health and social services.

22 May 2006


For the full report, please refer to:

26th May 2006


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