GNA’s RADA Issues More Draconian Laws to Restrict Women’s Freedom of Movement – Al Marsad

The Special Deterrence Force, or RADA, which operate under the Government of National Accord (GNA) issued a number of draconian measures that will drastically impact women’s freedom of movement in Tripoli.

(Libya, 20 September 2020) – The special operations military police unit known as RADA, which is based in Tripoli under the leadership of Abdul Rauf Kara and aligned to Fathi Bashagha’s Ministry of Interior of the GNA issued a number of new draconian rules for social gatherings that will directly impact women’s freedom of movement in the capital of Libya.

New rules regulating social interaction in public places, such as cafés and restaurants issued by RADA will be implemented in cooperation with female police officers who will arrest any who infringe the new laws. RADA also operates its own prisons at Mitiga which has been accused of gross human rights abuses.

The new regulations forbid “males and females to sit together except for those who have a valid marriage contract showing that the woman is not a girlfriend, a colleague, or mistress. It is also forbidden for women or girls to enter mixed public cafes. They can enter places designated in cafes (for families only).”

One caterer in Tripoli, Mozart Catering, posted on its social media page that starting from now couples will need to show their marriage contract when entering their establishment.

It is not clear, however, if these rules are applicable to Libyan citizens only or also to foreigners expats and visitors in Tripoli.

The new draconian strictures not only affect social gatherings but, as is the nature of social prohibitions inspired by extremist religious groups, it will also dictate clothing that Libyan women can wear in public places. According to the new rulings, “Obscene, tight, and luscious dress for women shall not be permissible.” It also warned that female police officers of Fathi Bashagha’s Ministry of the Interior will arrest those who “contravene this obligation and inflict punishment thereon.” Coffee shop owners, said RADA, will be held accountable for violating such instructions.

Arrest of women shall be conducted by the officers who have a security capacity and with the support of female police officers. Women police officers will not arrest women on their own, only those mixing in situations the police deems objectionable.

RADA did not deny the reports on the new rulings, and refused a request from Al-Marsad to comment on the matter.

These measures are all the more alarming as such severity is rare in North Africa and the wider Arab world nations. Even Saudi Arabia, which has traditionally the most conservative gender relations laws, is undergoing a liberalisation process easing restrictions on movement, economic activity and employment for women. In the case of the UAE, the emirate of Dubai is aiming to achieve 50% of its management positions to be filled by women, along with a number of nationwide initiatives to empower women.

The social interaction laws in Tripoli are not the only ones that have been promulgated by RADA: there are also new rules to counter sexual harassment. The new provisions declare: “Harassment and forbidden gazing: the girl or the married woman shall be punishable with a fine of not less than 1,000 dinars and sign an official undertaking.” This enforcement no doubt is affected also by the presence of Syrian mercenaries, which according to conservative estimates have reached over 15,000. Their presence is not without consequences given the track record of physical and sexual abuse against women by many of the mercenaries.

According to the latest Pentagon report, the presence of Syrian mercenaries is responsible for the increased number of cases of sexual harassment abuse against Libyan women. Incidents of conflict-related sexual violence and kidnapping by armed groups remain severely underreported as a result of fear, intimidation and stigma which are connected to discriminatory gender norms.

Since the revolution of 2011, women in Libya have been disproportionally affected by the continuing conflict and the rise of violent extremism across the country. According to Al Monitor: “In March 2013, the country’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadiq Ghariani issued a fatwa against a charter prepared by the UN Commission on the Status of Women, considering it to be incompatible with Islamic Sharia.”

The proliferation of extremist groups, regressive fatwas issued by the radical Islamist cleric Sadiq al-Gharyani and Dar Al-Ifta that affects women’s access to education, employment, dress codes and even who they can marry, along with the influence of lawless militias—are at the root of the worrying decline of basic rights experienced by Libyan women.

© Al-Marsad English (2020)