Lebanon on Wednesday made headlines after repealing a piece of legislation that gave rapists a way to escape punishment by marrying their victims. Lebanon has joined a number of countries in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East that have reversed such provisions following pressure by Arab women’s movements.
How Serious Is the Marry-Your-Rapist Law?
Several countries, including some from the Arab region and some from the Catholic countries such as the Philippines, have permitted men charged with rape to be excused if they accept to marry their accusers. Women’s movements have for years launched a massive campaign against these laws, claiming that they aggravate the suffering of victimized survivors.
The law was repealed after all the members of parliament voted against it. According to the women’s rights groups, parliament is their first step towards changing the sentiments in patriarchal communities. In these communities, a family’s honor is closely associated with a woman’s chastity.
Abaad’s Fight against the Marry Your Rapist Law
Ghida Anani, the founder of Abaad; which is a women’s rights movement in Lebanon, remarked that repealing the legislation was the first step towards transforming the traditions and mindset of the Lebanese. She reassured the world that this was just the beginning and that a behavioral and awareness campaign would follow. The aim of these campaigns is to make women aware that rapists can no longer escape punishment.
Abaad had campaigned vigorously against this legislation. The group had mounted billboards all over Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, depicting a woman wearing a bloodied and torn up bridal gown. A caption next to the image read in Arabic, “Wearing a white dress does not conceal rape”.
A group of government ministers had expressed their intention to have the law repealed. The main hurdle was the parliamentary vote, and the parliamentarians unanimously agreed to revise Section 522 of the legal provision.
Lebanon’s move came after other countries in the region had taken a similar stance. Jordan’s parliament recently voted to revoke this law. Tunisia is another country that followed the same path in July. Morocco repealed their marry-your-rapist law three years ago after a teenager committed suicide after being required to marry the man who had raped her.