Lebanon Allows Marital Rape in New Domestic Violence Law

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In a move decried by women’s organizations as an "April Fools’ joke," the Lebanese parliament passed watered-down legislation yesterday against domestic violence. The legislation, originally drafted in 2007 by KAFA, a Lebanese women’s rights group, was first considered by the parliament in 2010.

Redrafted a number of times, the bill as passed lacks a number of key items protecting women. Specifically, due to objections by Islamic religious officials, the bill was amended to remove a clause criminalizing the act of marital rape (instead, it criminalizes only the threat of marital rape). Another amendment took out all references to forced marriage. The name of the bill was also changed. It now refers to violence against the family as opposed to violence against women

The law was passed quickly during the first meeting of the Lebanese parliament in a year. (The hiatus was caused by a political squabble over the approval of a new government.)

"It was just theatre. In two minutes the law was approved without any of the requested amendments," said Faten Abou Chakra of KAFA told Reuters. "This law is distorted and will not guarantee real protection for women."

“We had important comments that affected the essence of the law, and it weakens protection measures for women,” Zoya Rouhana, director of KAFA, told The Daily Star.

In 2012, when news of the watering down of the bill began to surface, KAFA began lobbying lawmakers to endorse KAFA’s ammendments to the law. The group garnered the signatures of 71 of Lebanon’s 128 pariamentarians who promised to bring up KAFA's suggestions in the parliament.

Yet, when the bill came up, not one of those legislators raised any objection to the bill. “If an MP does not respect his signature, I don’t know how they expect us to trust them,” commented Maya Ammar, KAFA’s communications officer.  “It seemed as if it was a ready-prepared scenario and there was no option for discussion even.”

Protesters against the watering down of the bill rallied in front of the parliament carrying signs that read “No Law No Vote,” and “You didn’t vote for us, so we are not going to vote for you.” Other women carried pictures of women who had been killed by their husbands.

There have been at least four women in Lebanon who have been murdered by their husbands this year already.

Fawzi Iskandar, an   83-year-old Lebanese woman who also protested in previous demonstrations, held a sign that read, “Woe to the nation who kills its women in the name of honor.”

Protesters, as well as online supporters – men, women and entire businesses – stamped red ink on their thumbs, symbolizing the voting process as well as the shedding of blood by victims of domestic violence.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org