BLOG: Lebanese Women Rise Against Marital Rape

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 19:00
Western Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Initiative Type: 
Online Dialogues & Blogs

Lebanese women are taking to the streets to demand that the government takes domestic violence seriously, by introducing laws to protect women from abusive partners.

Feminist activists have been demanding that politicians ignore the objections of Muslim religious authorities and pass a stalled law protecting women from domestic violence.

A draft version of the Law to Protect Women from Family Violence was approved by Lebanon's Cabinet in 2010, but has since become bogged down in parliament, mainly due to the objections of Sunni and Shia authorities.

The bill was drafted to criminalize physical and sexual abuse, so-called "honor crimes" and marital rape, create specially-trained domestic violence response units within the police, and provide the legal framework for restraining orders to be issued against abusers.

But Lebanon's religious courts have criticized the proposed law as an attempt to erode their authority.

Dar al-Fatwa, Lebanon's top Sunni authority, and the Higher Shi'a Islamic Council both said that they opposed the draft on the basis that Sharia law protected the status of women, and should remain the basis for governing legal issues related to Muslim families.

The law fails to recognize marital rape as a crime -- a position that some Muslim judges argue should be upheld.

Sheik Ahmad Al-Kurdi, a judge in the Sunni religious court, told CNN that criminalizing marital rape "could lead to the imprisonment of the man...where in reality he is exercising the least of his marital rights."

With little protection from authorities, Lebanese women in abusive marriages must also often contend with the disapproval of their families if they seek to escape their predicament.

The draft bill had been moderated with so many amendments due to objections by religious conservatives, that it was virtually useless to pass it.