Women in Lebanon are protesting for the removal of a law that allows rapists to escape punishment for their crimes as long as they marry the survivor.
The outdated statute from the 1940s currently says that rape is punishable by up to seven years in prison. The penalty for raping a minor or someone with mental or physical disabilities is higher - but Article 522 of the law creates a loophole which says that criminal prosecution is suspended if the two people involved get married.
The law is up for debate on Wednesday after it was raised by a member of parliament. Lebanon’s diverse Christian and Muslim political representatives are currently energised by the election of a president after a more than two-year-long paralysis which meant legislation could not be passed - and activists are optimistic something can be done.
On Tuesday, around a dozen women wearing white dresses and bandages stained with fake blood staged a demonstration outside the government building in downtown Beirut to signify their support for changing the archaic law.
“We reject this violation of women regardless of their age, background, environment, whether they have special needs or the circumstances of the rape,” said Ghida Anani, head of Abaad, a local NGO campaigning against it on rights grounds.
Inside parliament, supporters of the article said that marriage was a way to save the honour of a raped woman, suggesting that if the law is rewritten, wedding an attacker could be left as an option for families to choose if they wished.
Ms Anani was dismissive of the proposal. “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.
Similar marriage clauses are present in the law regarding sexual consent in many modern Muslim states. They are usually hangovers from interpretations of Sharia, or religious law.
In recent years such loopholes have come under under intensified scrutiny, with protests aimed at getting the law changed in several countries across the Middle East - although the Turkish authorities’ attempt this year to write a marriage article into existing rape legislation caused outrage both within the country and internationally.
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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