Lebanon Moves Forward with Creation of Family Violence Law
Friday, June 19, 2009 5:39 PM

The Lebanese government has begun discussing a bill on family violence which would create the first Lebanese laws to explicitly protect women from domestic violence.  While Lebanon has general laws against violence, these are frequently insufficient to protect women from family abuse.  Officials are often hesitant to take accusation against male spouses seriously, and many women lack the financial resources to pursue legal claims independently.  Domestic violence in Lebanon is also greatly underreported, as many women are afraid to report their abuse, especially when it comes from a father or brother.  The proposed law would create greater legal protections for victims of violence, including the creation of restraining orders, allowing perpetrators of violence to be removed from the home, and requiring  perpetrators to pay for the medical treatment of their victims.

The Beirut-based non-profit organization Kafa, which means “enough” in Arabic, is the driving force behind the new bill.  Following a 1996 Kafa-sponsored conference in Beirut called “Legalizing the Protection Against Family Violence,” the draft bill was created by a steering committee comprised of lawyers, judges, law enforcement officers, and other specialists.  Kafa chose to use the term “family violence” as opposed to the more common term “domestic violence” due to the high rate of violence against women in Lebanon that occurs outside of the home but is instigated by a member of the women’s extended family.  Kafa has also started a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about the problem of family violence using web sites, public service advertisements, and television commercials.

In August 2008 the Lebanese government’s Ministerial Statement included a pledge to protect women from violence, only the second time in Lebanon’s history that this has been mentioned in a Ministerial Statement.  While many regions in Lebanon are governed by local Islamic laws, the Lebanese government has recently reduced the discrimination against women in national law.  Women are now able to create contracts, own property, and receive health care, including birth control, at an equal status with men.  However, in many areas of both local and national law, including welfare, adultery, abortion, and nationality issues, women in Lebanon do not receive the same rights and protection as men.

Compiled from: “Lebanon: Law to Stop Violence Against Women Takes Time,” IPS News (16 June 2009); “Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee Takes Up Lebanon’s Report, Commends Impressive Steps Taken to Promote Gender Equality,” Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, WOM/1514 (12 July 2007); “About the Family Violence Bill,” Kafa Violence and Exploitation Campaign, Kafa; “Regional Meeting ‘Legalizing the Protection Against Family Violence’ Final Statement,” Kafa (June 2006).