Controversial Tourism Campaign Angers Women in Lebanon

Tourism campaign launched by Lebanese Ministry of Tourism has angered may women in the country. Layal Al Khatib at Global Voices Online blogged about the campaign and has translated a petition sent to the ministry by a women’s group demanding an explanation.

“Your ad contains serious contradictions that we would like you answer:

Firstly, we as women cannot pass our nationality to our children and husbands; we are considered daughters of Lebanese men and not Lebanese women. Therefore you cannot use us in your tourism advert.

Secondly, based on our respect for sex workers and our ongoing demands for laws to regulate their work and protect their safety, rights and health, we ask you as the Ministry of Tourism either to: stop this two-sided stance whereby you promote Lebanon as a country for sex tourism while sex workers in it suffer and are exploited horribly and subjected to humiliation and injustice; or launch a campaign to organize the work of these women and legalize it with proper supervision by specialized and non-corrupt authorities.”

The country’s leading paper The Daily Star reported on the campaign saying that,

“Lina Abou Habib, executive director of equality organization Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action, said the advert was in line with other commercial campaigns which portray Lebanon as a country where women are happy to be treated as sex objects.

“This is consistent with what the state has been promoting Lebanon as since the war. More precisely, this advert is consistent with [the government] trying to sell Lebanese women to men from the Gulf,” Habib told The Daily Star. “Ever since the war, the government has been totally oblivious to what it means to build a state where people have rights. It’s all about cheap tourism and women as objects rather than citizens.”

Maysa Phares, blogger at Beirut Public Space, however offers a different perspective and calls the campaign not offensive but cliche.

“Ultimately, it is a shame that the Ministry did not choose a more creative and uplifting plot to promote tourism in the country. The commercials end with just a few quick snapshots of the Lebanese experience, mostly images of beaches and the nightlife. Although Lebanon can boast a vibrancy that few countries in the Middle East and elsewhere can compete with, it would be nice if an advertisement could tell potential travelers things they don’t already know.”

Here is the campaign’s US version(embedding has been disabled). What do you see?

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