BEIRUT, Lebanon — When topless photos taken several years ago of Lebanese Olympic skier Jackie Chamoun surfaced online in recent weeks, the news grabbed headlines in Lebanon and across the globe. Although it's hailed as one of the most liberal countries in the region, the skier acknowledged in a Facebook post that it is still in many ways a "conservative" country. Last Wednesday, Lebanon's Sports and Youth minister even ordered an investigation into the photos, which Chamoun said were part of a photo shoot for a ski calendar and were never meant to be made public. (The photographer was Olympian Hubertus von Hohenlohe, who recently made healdines with his mariachi-style race suit.)
While liberalists across Lebanon rallied in support of Chamoun, March, a Beirut-based NGO focused on national censorship laws, decided to use the publicity around Chamoun's nudity to draw attention to an issue far more significant to most Lebanese women — domestic violence.
This photo is central to their latest campaign, which has pushed the slogan, "NUDITY IS A PERSONAL CHOICE ... GETTING BEATEN UP IS NOT."
Courtesy of March and M&C Saatchi Mena
In an explainer posted on their website, the group said, "March has of course supported [Jackie Chamoun], her personal freedom and her right to choose. But what about the other women who deserve the same attention and coverage: victims of domestic violence. ... It's time that we reassess our values, get our priorities straight, and be the voice of women who have been silenced. Some of whom, forever."
Why domestic violence? March founding member and General Coordinator Lea Baroudi told GlobalPost the idea emerged from another story from Lebanon that gained decidedly less attention than Jackie's semi-concealed breasts. The week before Chamoun's photos came out, a woman in Beirut was beaten to death with a pressure cooker, allegedly wielded by her husband. Her brother told The Daily Star that neighbors had actually called the police during the attack. The police allegedly declined to intervene in a "family matter."