Deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi saw himself as a protector of human rights. In attempting to curb Islamic extremism he did introduce some pro-women legislation and women were also given opportunities to enter most professions. In practice, however, those who rose to the top under Gaddafi’s regime tended to be either his political cronies or, as in the case of his female bodyguards, his personal sexual playthings.
But from the beginning of the rebel uprising, women played a significant part. Rebel officers taught women how to use guns, and some did. Others smuggled weapons for the rebels, helped Nato find airstrike targets, tended to the wounded and contacted journalists. Having tasted freedom, they are reluctant to return to their old domestic lives. The New York Times spoke to women with new aspirations: to trace missing detainees, to run for political office, to work for women’s rights.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the national transitional council will offer them the status they now know they deserve. Disturbingly, there is just one woman in the leadership so far, and no women’s toilet in their HQ. But a positive sign was this week’s first speech of the interim leader, Mustafa Jalil, in which he spoke of a desire for women to play a substantial role in the new dispensation. That will have given hope to Libyan women that they may yet hold onto their newfound autonomy. DM
Support DAILY MAVERICK & get FREE UBER vouchers every month
An increasingly rare commodity, quality independent journalism costs money, though not nearly as much as its absence can cost global community. No country can live and prosper without truth - that's why it matters.
Every Daily Maverick article and every Scorpio exposé is proof of our dedication to this unshakeable mission. Investing in our news media is by far the most effective investment into South Africa's future.
You can support Independent and Investigative journalism by joining Maverick Insider. If you contribute R150 or more per month you will receive R100 back in UBER vouchers. EVERY MONTH until October 2019.
So, if you'd like to help and do something meaningful for yourself and your country, then sign up to become a Maverick Insider. Together we can Defend Truth.
Tigers cannot purr.