After seven years of advocacy by domestic and international human rights organizations, including a rally of more than 5000 people on International Women’s Day in March, the Lebanese Parliament finally approved a “Bill for the Protection of Women and Family Members Against Domestic Violence.” The new law, passed on April 1, 2014, will criminalize many forms of domestic abuse, including obtaining sexual acts through the use of harm, beatings, or threats. The law also contains provisions for restraining orders and temporary housing for victim-survivors of domestic violence, authorizes special “family violence” units within the Lebanese police force, and directs certain public prosecutors to handle and investigate domestic violence cases.
Ghassan Mkhayber, a Lebanese member of parliament integral in the passage of the law stated, “It’s not the ideal text, but it’s a first step.” Many activists have criticized the new law, saying it lacks a human rights focus and does not include any of the amendments recommended by NGO’s, such as specific language criminalizing marital rape and forced marriage. These flaws prompted prominent Lebanese women’s rights organization, KAFA (in English “End Violence and Exploitation Now”) to state, "This law is distorted, and will not guarantee real protection for women."
Other advocates agree that the law is far from perfect and should be strengthened, but say that sets a new precedent for the protection of abused women in Lebanon, particularly if it is vigorously enforced. Prior to the passage of the new bill, Lebanese women had little or no formal legal recourse against their abusers who enjoyed widespread immunity from prosecution, and many women feared reporting abuse or violence.
Compiled from: Lebanon passes law against domestic violence, Yahoo News (April 1, 2014); Bassam, Laila, Lebanon passes disputed domestic violence law, Reuters (April 1, 2014); Lebanon: Domestic Violence Law Good, but Incomplete, Human Rights Watch (April 3, 2014).