February 15, 2012 — Jad Rahme
UPDATE: Video showing the highlights of the demonstration available right before the end of the article.
We all know that women’s right is an important issue in the Arab world and although Lebanon is considered as more “liberal” comparing to other Arab countries (as I stated in my video report about Media censorship in Lebanon), Lebanese women aren’t treated fairly. Amongst the unfair laws present in the Lebanese constitution you can find a law that makes it legal for a man to rape his wife and I personally think that this is completely unacceptable! I mean, come on, rape can’t be a legal act in any situation…
KAFA (“Enough” in Arabic), a Lebanese NGO, presented a draft law to protect women from domestic violence and a special committee was created to take care of this issue and the implementation of the proposed draft law after studying it and doing some changes if necessary. This parliamentary committee is formed of 8 MPs (7 men and 1 woman): Samir el Jisr, Nabil Nicolas, Michel el Helou, Gilberte Zouein, Ghassan Moukheiber, Ali Ammar, Imad el Hout and Shant Jinjinian. They have actually changed so much stuff in this law that it ended up not being a real protection for women which makes it, therefore, useless.
I’m not going to say more about it but for those of you who are willing to know more about it, you can check the explanatory text I posted at the end of this post and which has been issued by KAFA itself.
I have actually prepared a video in collaboration with Assaad Thebian, a fellow Lebanese blogger, to call the Lebanese citizens to take a stand for women’s right by participating in a demonstration organized by KAFA on Saturday, February 18th at the Samir Kassir Square (Downtown Beirut) at 11:00 AM. Check it out :)
UPDATE: Video showing the highlights of the demonstration that took place on February 18th 2012.
Official Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/STOPDomesticViolenceAgainstWomen
Official Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/222784901148866/
In Lebanon, family matters (i.e., divorce, child custody, and marriage) are governed by the religious courts. There is no national, secular law on family violence. In fact, these religious laws place women in a subordinate position and do not comply with some of basic human rights standards. In addition, the Lebanese penal code discriminates against women and tolerates harmful practices and cruel and inhuman treatment, such as provisions that allow marital rape and exempt the rapist or abuser of any sentence if he marries the victim.
In order to address these shortcomings, KAFA prepared in 2008 (with the help of a steering committee of specialists) a Draft Law to Protect Women from Family Violence. The draft law not only criminalizes all forms of family violence- physical, sexual, mental, verbal and economic- but also includes several provisions to protect and empower women and girls within the family, such as provisions on restraining orders, reporting violence, securing accommodation and medical expenses, safeguarding the privacy of the family, and ensuring the establishment of family units within the Internal Security Forces (For more information see the Law to Protect Women from Family Violence available at: http://www.kafa.org.lb).
KAFA worked towards building against family violence through activities such as: initiation of a National Coalition for the Protection of Women from Family Violence (more than 51 NGOs and CSOs so far), and raising awareness of the general public and frontline personnel on the draft law. KAFA also launched a lobbying campaign during the parliamentary elections to put pressure on candidates for the adoption of the draft law into their political programs; succeeding in putting the law on the agenda of two political parties. KAFA also wrote petition letters to the Cabinet of Ministers, which led to an official government pledge to tackle legal reform and protect women from family violence (Ministerial Statement 2008, reiterated by the re-elected representative of the parliament in June 2009). A series of meetings conducted with Ministers led to the official adoption of the draft law by the Ministry of Justice and endorsement of the law by the Council of Ministers in April 2010, after which it was transferred to the Parliament.
A special committee within the Parliament was formed to study the draft law where it still remains. At the same time, a new campaign opposing the endorsement of the law was launched by a small group of women NGOs, backed by conservative religious institutions. This campaign was followed by an official statement issued by the Mufti, the highest religious authority of the Sunni sect in Lebanon, rejecting the law. The statement initiated a wider campaign on the part of Islamist groups that included a conference held at the Islamic University in Tripoli, Lebanon and visits by a committee of Sunni religious figures to other religious leaders in other sects to unite against the draft law. Sources indicate that some Parliamentarians on the committee are calling for changes in response to pressure from these groups. These changes would include removal of marital rape as one form of violence, removal of the violence against women dimension of the law, and limit the protection of the law to immediate family members (the law would only apply to the nuclear family).
Such a distortion of the draft law will result in the passage of a weak instrument, thus it would be a superficial remedy in the fight against family violence.
Let us create a civil movement, a pressure group, each from where she/he stands, online, in the media, in our workplace, homes, universities, and meet on Feb 18th on the street in Beirut to raise our voice, stop parliament from passing toothless law and stop domestic violence against women!