Three issues with Lebanon’s new domestic violence law

Activists take issue with bill supposed to protect women’s rights

A KAFA campaign sign condemning politicians reads "You didn't vote for us, we won't vote for you"

The Lebanese parliament passed a draft law on Tuesday on the Protection of Women and Family Members Against Domestic Violence Abuse. This would appear on the surface as a victory for the civil society organizations that advocated and pushed for this law. Yet despite this, members of KAFA, the organization that wrote the draft law, and other activists took to the streets of Downtown Beirut to protest the law’s adoption in its current form.

The version KAFA originally drafted was called the Law to Protect Women from Domestic Violence. It was eventually put on the agenda of joint parliamentary committees in 2011. It was intensely examined for over a year before the sub-committees proposed an amended draft law.

This law was hugely different from the original draft law. KAFA, believing the changes had weakened the law, proposed a series of amendments. The law that was passed on Tuesday, however, did not take their amendments into consideration. Here are the top three things they believe are missing:

  1. Keeping the focus on women: One of the greatest changes the sub-committees made was to generalize the law to apply to all members of the family – including men, the elderly, and children. “We did not accept that because the law was formulated upon the needs of the woman,” says Zoya Rouhana, managing director of KAFA. “The law is not applicable to all the members of the family. The way it was written and formulated was to respond to the women’s needs.” While she is not opposed to laws protecting other vulnerable family members, she claims that generalizing the law is diluting the notion that women are most often the victims of gender-based violence.
  2. Criminalizing marital rape: Perhaps parliament’s most chilling amendment to the original draft law was to remove the clause criminalizing marital rape. After a lot of civil society campaigning to have it re-introduced, the new clause criminalizes only the use of force in the act of “redeeming marital rights to intercourse.” (Article 3) “We want to criminalize the act itself, not the use of violence,” says Rouhana.
  3. Removing ties to the personal status laws: The law gives the victim subject to domestic violence and her children the right to a protection order. The parliament’s law added a clause, defining children as those “who are in the age of legal custody as per the provisions of the Codes on Personal Statute and their applicable laws.” (Article 12) This addition is problematic, according to Rouhana, since the age of custody for children differs among sects and varies between boys and girls.

Livia Murray

Livia covers business, finance and economic policy for Executive.