Lebanon set to abolish law allowing rapists to marry victims to escape punishment

Women stormed Beirut's streets on Tuesday in white dresses and bandages to protest human rights 'violation' 

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Thursday 08 December 2016 14:19
Women in Lebanon protest law allowing rapists to marry their victims to escape punishment

Lebanon’s Parliament has taken a first step towards abolishing a law that allows rapists to avoid punishment if they marry their victims.

Protestors stormed Beirut's streets on Tuesday wearing white dresses and bandages stained with fake blood, demonstrating outside the city's main Government building.

The law from the 1940s currently says that rape is punishable by up to seven years in prison with a higher penalty for raping a minor or someone with mental or physical disabilities.

However, Article 522 of the law creates a loophole which says that criminal prosecution is suspended if the two people involved get married.

After a review of the statute on Wednesday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri tweeted that a parliamentary committee had agreed to set the wheels in motion towards abolishing the outdated law.

"We await the completion of this civilised step in the nearest legislative session," Mr Hariri told NNA news agency.

Kataeb political party president Samy Gemayel also supported the move, saying he hoped it would be approved quickly, according to NNA.

Previously, supporters of the article had argued that marriage was a way to save the honour of a raped woman, suggesting that if the law was rewritten, wedding an attacker could be left as an option for families to choose if they wished.

Women dressed as brides in bloodstained white dresses protest existing rape legislation outside the government building in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, on December 6 2016

However, Ghida Anani, head of ABAAD, a local NGO campaigning against the law, said it was a clear violation of women’s rights.

“This is like saying the victim is a victim twice, a daily victim because she has to share her life with a person that violated her, and is hence raped every day,” she said.

“We reject this violation of women regardless of their age, background, environment, whether they have special needs or the circumstances of the rape.”

Similar marriage clauses are present in sexual consent law in many modern Muslim states, often a hangover from interpretations of Sharia, or religious law.

A Facebook post from ABAAD welcomed the news from Lebanon’s Parliament.

"Congratulations to all the women and girls in the Lebanese territory," ABAAD said. "The Committee for Administration and Justice has agreed to repeal Article 522 from the Lebanese Criminal Penal Code and more details will be discussed regarding the remaining articles next Wednesday."

In November, Turkey abandoned plans for a controversial law that would have allowed men who had sex with underage children to be pardoned if they married the victim.

Several attempts to repeal or amend Lebanon’s immunity-through-marriage law have been made in the past, most recently after large protests in 2012.

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