Following the righteous path of Jordan and Tunisia in scrapping discriminatory rape laws, Lebanon finally takes the progressive steps toward abolishing its disgusting rape laws.
Not in the very long past, such laws have played a key role in ruining thousands of women’s and young girls’ lives. Thus, in 2016, Lebanon took the first step in abolishing laws that belonged to the barbaric stone-age.
Article 522 of the Lebanese parliament used to create a loophole for sadistic rapists to not only escape going to prison but to also subject their victim for a life filled with abuse and misery.
The article allowed halting the prosecution or suspending the conviction of a person who had committed rape, kidnapping, or statutory rape if he married the victim. Moreover, in such a case the victim is either terrorized into accepting the marriage or forced into it by her family to uphold their so-called “honor”.
The article was officially admitted to the Lebanese Penal Code in February 1948 and was finally abolished in 2017. Moreover, the article originally and officially used to state that “If a valid contract of marriage is made between the perpetrator of any of the offenses mentioned in this section, and the victim, the prosecution is suspended. If a judgment was already passed, the implementation of the punishment is suspended.”
Abolishing the “marry your rapist law”
For a long time, Lebanese human rights activists have worked tirelessly to abolish this inhuman and degrading law. However, in 2016 an effective and planned campaign called “A White Dress Doesn’t Cover the Rape” was launched by the Lebanese non-governmental organization known as Abaad MENA.
The campaign didn’t only focus on abolishing rape laws but it also worked on eliminating stigmatization and shaming regarding rape. A mentality that unfortunately a lot of Lebanese still uphold in these modern times. Furthermore, the campaign worked hard to severe the outdated way of thinking linking rape with honor.
Moreover, the organization started campaigning to spread awareness on the article since almost only 1% of the Lebanese population thoroughly knew about it. Lebanese citizens had a rough idea that these incidents do take place in their country, but they never thought that the law was on the criminals’ side.
In November 2016, Abaad organized a flash mob during the Beirut Marathon. Instead of wearing normal sportswear, dozens of girls and women chose to march while wearing white T-shirts have the text “Abolish #522.” written on them in both Arabic and English. Participants also covered their head with boxes and carried pink balloons with the quote “الإغتصاب جريمة” (rape is a crime) printed on them.
The organization also organized a protest in December 2016 against the article. Protestors wore a white dress while covering themselves in bandages around either their eyes, hands, or knees stained with fake blood. Furthermore, the protest took place when the government was still arguing about abolishing the article.
In addition, in March 2017, activists hung 31 wedding dresses on a noose in Beirut’s Corniche to signify the harsh reality of this outdated law.
On August 16, 2017, the vote to repeal finally took place in governmental circles. Later it was signed by Lebanese president Micheal Aoun.
The first step on a long path
The scrapping of Lebanon rape law is still but a single lonely small step towards giving Lebanese women back their rights. Activists should continue to work toward abolishing other barbaric and inhuman articles such as 505 and 518. Both of those articles stipulate that the rape clause would still apply when sexual assault is committed against a girl between 15 and 18. They also permit the marriage of your rapist law to take place if there is a previous consent or a prior promise of marriage.
Moreover, ending child marriage should also be on the list. In Lebanon, there is no such thing as a minimum age for marriage. Children are married to people twice or thrice their age with no legal consequence.
Furthermore, if the previous campaign was successful in repealing articles 505 and 518 along with 522, setting a minimum age for marriage would have been an easier battle.
In addition, gender inequality takes a lot of forms in the country. One of the most obvious manifestations is gender-based violence. Those who offer help for the victims stated that they receive more than 2,600 reports of partner violence every year. The country also still doesn’t decriminalize marital rape.
Abolishing this law is a big accomplishment for Lebanon despite being very late to the party. Women’s rights are human rights and Lebanon should treat them as such. Moreover, it might be a long battle but it is not unwinnable.
BBC News. (2017, August 16). Lebanon abolishes rape marriage loophole. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-40947448
Historic day for women in Lebanon as Parliament repeals rape law. (n.d.). UN Women. Retrieved July 13, 2020, from https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2017/8/news-lebanon-parliament-repeals-rape-law
Lebanon: Reform Rape Laws. (2020, July 13). Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/19/lebanon-reform-rape-laws
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Najjar, F. (2017, August 18). The scrapping of Lebanon rape law “is one small step.” Middle East | Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/08/scrapping-lebanon-rape-law-small-step-170818142722481.html
Williams, J. (2016, December 8). Lebanon Takes the First Step to Abolish Marriage Rape Law. MTV Lebanon. https://www.mtv.com.lb/news/articles/657934/lebanon-takes-first-step-to-abolish-marriage-rape-law
Williams, J. C. (2016, December 12). Lebanon takes the first step to abolish marriage rape law. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/08/middleeast/lebanon-moves-to-abolish-marriage-rape-law/index.html