"Dignity is you and your well-being and self-respect as a woman, and your ability to stand in front of the mirror every time and know that this is you, this is"
Nadyn Jouny was a Lebanese mother, activist and feminist who fought for the passing of a Unified Personal Status Law in Lebanon. Divorced at 19, Nadyn spent the last ten years of her life fighting for custody of her son Karam who she was only allowed to see for 24 hours a week, as per the orders of the Jaafari Shiaa Muslim courts. On October 6, 2019, Nadyn, on her way to protest unfair tax increases, tragically passed away in a car accident.
Nadyn was well known for her advocacy against misogyny and gender-based violence. As a program coordinator for ABAAD - Resource Center for Gender Equality, a local Lebanese NGO, she engaged in multiple advocacy campaigns, calling for the amendment of laws that discriminate against women, notably sexual violence and rape.
To note that though the Lebanese state is formally secular, all matters of personal status—marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance, among other issues—are governed by religious codes, of which there are 15 recognized by the state. Each religious sect follows a distinct set of personal status laws that control major aspects of a woman’s life in Lebanon and codify discrimination against women. Although Lebanon has ratified a number of international human rights covenants that protect and promote women’s equality during and after marriage, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the existence of religiously based Personal Status Laws and court decisions that fail to guarantee equality in marriage and divorce fall foul of these obligations. The women’s movement in Lebanon has long called for the state to comply with CEDAW’s full articles regarding nationality and personal status laws.
Nadyn also supported the Lebanese Democratic Women’s Gathering ٌRDFL’s campaign #NotBefore18 against early marriage and mobilized rallies in Beirut against rape and assaults of girls and honor crimes. Moreover, Nadyn was the co-founder and the campaign manager for Protecting Lebanese Women (PLW)—which calls for more equitable religious and public policy—leading on campaigns to change custody laws with emphasis on the Jaafari Shiaa Muslim courts.
Alongside her activism to achieve gender justice in Lebanon, Nadyn was undergoing her own personal legal battle to win custody of her son, Karam. Married at 17, Nadyn was physically and verbally abused by her husband until she was forced to divorce him, resulting in him being granted custody of their son. Nadyn would often share her experiences on social media—such as her inability to see Karam every day and share mother-son experiences like the first day of school, school traffic, winter holidays and birthdays—gaining much empathy from the public.
Not long before her passing, to commemorate 10 years since her divorce, Nadyn shared on Facebook the hardships she experienced throughout years of divorce and custody battles.
“Dignity is not a dress, a picture, a laugh, and a child. Dignity is you and your well-being and self-respect as a woman, and your ability to stand in front of the mirror every time and know that this is you, this is you just like you want yourself to be.”