Lebanon took an important step in reducing violence against women by annulling Article 562 of its Criminal Code on August 4, 2011. Previously, Article 562 allowed for mitigation of sentences for individuals who killed or injured a woman to protect the family “honor.” Originally amended in 1999 by criminalizing "honor" killings or violence that was deemed premeditated, Article 562 stated that if a person was “surprised” by adultery or another illegal sex act and killed or injured either party without premeditation he would be subject to a shorter prison sentence. By annulling this article in its entirety, Lebanon is no longer allowing mitigated sentencing of any person that commits a violent act based on the family’s "honor."
While honor killings are reported to be relatively rare in Lebanon, Human Rights Watch and other advocates are hoping that the recent annulment will serve as an example for the region in addition to serving as a catalyst for the amendments of other laws in Lebanon that discriminate against women.
Human Rights Watch has called Lebanon’s repeal of the provision an “encouraging step” in addressing gender-based violence, but is also calling for the Lebanese parliament to “remove and amend other criminal provisions that discriminate on the basis of gender, and enact a law to protect women from domestic violence.”
Currently, the Lebanese penal code discriminates against women in several other ways. Lebanon, like many other countries in the region, does not criminalize marital rape; in fact, the code explicitly excludes forced sex in a marriage from the definition of rape. Furthermore, in Article 518, the rape of a virgin by means of deception can be subject only to a fine; and Article 522 stipulates that a rapist may be exonerated if he marries his victim after the crime. Article 534 also criminalizes “unnatural sexual intercourse,” a provision that has been used against homosexuals.
A draft law criminalizing domestic abuse was passed by the former cabinet in May, 2011, and is currently under review by a special parliamentary committee.
Compiled from: Lebanon: Law Reform Targets ‘Honor’ Crimes, Thomson Reuters Foundation, (11 August 2011).