Rape Isn’t A Legal Right – Shout It Out Loud

Fight Rape Protest

On January 14, 2012, hundreds of people defied the rain and took to the streets of Beirut to protest against rape.

Protesters marched from Sanayeh to Riad El Solh square in Downtown Beirut, where security officers cordoned off the area to prevent them from reaching the Lebanese Parliament.

As the crowds gathered in the square, organizers read statements that called upon the Lebanese Parliament to:

  1. Pass the draft law for the Protection of Women from Family Violence as it has been written and with no delay.
  2. Intensify punitive measures against rapists and those who attempt rape, amending the respective law.
  3. Treat verbal harassment as physical harassment, especially in the work place, making it a crime subject to judicial penalties.
  4. Deal with complaints related to sexual violence with rigor and consistency. The Interior Ministry and the Municipalities should also apply those measures. The three bodies should work to make the streets and neighborhoods safe, especially during the night-time, by ensuring proper street-lighting, and permitting women to carry tools of self-defense, like taser guns and pepper spray.

The march was organized by the Beirut-based feminist collective Nasawiya.

The Lebanese Parliament rejected a draft law to protect women from family violence last year. The bill, which would criminalize physical, mental, and sexual abuse, marital rape, and so-called honor crimes, was vehemently opposed by religious leaders and a number of MPs, who insist on the need to “keep the institution of the Family”, and not “question and challenge the authority of the Father.”

Since 2007, the organization KAFA (Enough Violence and Exploitation) has worked on drafting and promoting the family violence bill. A coalition of 41 legal experts and women’s organizations, including KAFA, has been pushing for legal protections against violence against women.

In Lebanon, which officially recognizes 18 sects, religious courts deal with personal status matters such as divorce, custody, and inheritance, but are not mandated to protect women from violence.

Articles 503 and 504 of the Lebanese penal code allow for marital rape, or rather, do not even consider it as rape.

Article 522 of the Lebanese penal code stipulates that charges are dropped against a rapist if he marries the victim.

The sentence for rape, according to Article 503, is forced labor for at least five years or for at least seven years, if the victim is under 15 years of age.

Lebanon lacks legislations to protect women from sexual harassment wherever it may happen.

For a round-up of the analytical articles, op-eds, commentaries and background information on rape and sexual violence in Lebanon, click here.

Click here to view the Photo Gallery “Fight Rape Protest” on Flickr, or browse through the selected thumbnails below.

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