Cost of liberation: Polygamy danger looms over Libyan women

When the Libyan uprising began, many women enthusiastically took part, marching alongside men and aspiring to greater freedoms. But now they may have to pay for that liberation by losing their rights.

­The head of the Libyan Women’s Union says the Arab Spring was the single most important step toward gender equality in a largely patriarchal society.

“Women helped the revolution and the revolution helped them. There are several women in the new government now. And we need to hold on to these achievements. We can’t give them back.”

But what seemed to be the path to women`s emancipation turned out to be leading to the deprivation of their rights, as the head of Libya’s transitional government is promising to bring back polygamy.

“The rule that limited the number of wives to one is against Sharia law and it should be banned,” Abdel Jalil stated.

The proposal is seen as an attempt to curry favor with Libya’s all-powerful militia and to encourage them to settle back into a peaceful life.

And while the proposal has been welcomed by many Libyan men, women are now puzzled over the prospects the revolution has brought them.

Under Gaddafi’s rule polygamy was banned and husbands were forbidden to restrict their wives’ mobility. By 2006 more than a quarter of Libyan women were working.

If legalized, polygamy will not just deprive women of their rights, but may also pave the way for further restrictions on their lives.

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