Many Lebanese women have died through domestic violence. The country passed the law on protection of women earlier this year after pressure from civil society groups played a key role in highlighting the problem.
At a time when fear of scandal, divorce, or more violent retribution has discouraged women from coming forward and filing complaints with the police, who are authorised by the new law to intervene and offer protection to battered women, local NGO Kafa produced a film, Under the Law.
The film, through the story of fictional women suffering from domestic abuse, highlights the powers the new law grants to the public prosectuor, forensic investigators, and social wokers.
The film's story takes place at the home of the Layal Rahhal, played by actress Bernadette Habib, and tackles why Layal - and many women in her position - remains silent about her husband's assaults.
Layal is estranged from her parents, who do not approve of her husband. The film also highlights the psychological trauma her son goes through as he often witnesses the episodes of abuse against his mother, and her attempts to conceal her bruises using makeup.
|The film highlights the powers the new law grants to the public prosectuor, investigators and social wokers.|
The climax comes when a neighbour calls the police and reports the battery. A police patrol takes Layal and her husband to the police station, where the husband is interrogated and Layal is given psychological assistance and legal support. Layal then decides to file a complaint against her husband and requests police protection.
According to Zoya Rouhana, the president of Kafa, up to 300 Internal Security Forces (ISF) personnel have received training to dealing with incidents related to domestic violence.
Kafa continues to press for what it says are fundamental amendments to the domestic violence law.
The amendments would create an ISF unit to deal with domestic violence, assign family law lawyers in every Lebanese province, and implement protection measures to separate abusers from victims. A fund to support domestic violence victims would also be established.
It is worth noting that the law in question has been met with opposition, with objectors saying the law gives the government the power to intervene in personal status issues which are otherwise the purview of religious courts according to the Lebanese constitution.
This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.