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Sarah Khalil

Scrapping Lebanon's rape law 'not enough': women's rights group

Lebanon scrapped a controversial law that protected rapists who marry their victims [AFP]

Date of publication: 17 August, 2017

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Scrapping the controversial rape law in Lebanon remains a small step towards ending violence against women, KAFA activist Maya Ammar tells The New Arab.
While the scrapping of a controversial law in Lebanon that allowed rapists who marry their victims to go free has been hailed by many, it remains a small step towards ending violence against women, an NGO for women's rights in Lebanon told The New Arab on Thursday.

Parliament on Wednesday moved to repeal penal code Article 522 - also known as "rape law" - following a high profile campaign by women's rights activists.

However, for many the move appears to be a token measure as other similar articles involving violence against women remain.

"While we acknowledge that the move is a step forward, we remain unsatisfied," says Maya Ammar, communications coordinator at KAFA (Enough), an NGO that tackles violence and exploitation of women.

"Wednesday's achievement is incomplete and does not meet our aspirations and ambitions. Although the article itself was repealed, its effects remains in Article 505 and Article 518." 

Both articles allow a person accused of "consensual" sexual relations with a minor to avoid prosecution by marrying the victim. 

Ammar tells The New Arab that lawmakers in Lebanon have put these articles on the agenda. 

"We have started hearing that MPs will move to discuss
these articles next," she says, "But I believe this entire section in the penal code needs to be addressed differently."

She believes the terms used to describe such horrific acts against women must reflect the nature of the violence.

"These are not simply 'immoral acts' - as mentioned in the penal code, but rather violent and brutal aggression against women - and sometimes young girls, and so they must be named as they are," she said.

Also on their agenda, KAFA is currently lobbying for a minimum age for marriage.

Currently, there is no minimum age of marriage in Lebanon. Instead, different religious communities follow personal status laws on marriage and divorce. 

"We are pushing for a law to set the minimum age for marriage at 18," Ammar said. "Currently the power is in the hands of different religious sects, which can sometimes see girls as young as nine years old married."

However, the battle will be tough as lawmakers seek to keep the status quo to maintain relations with religious and conservative groups, she added.

"We hope to see this stop and will continue to push for it until it is discussed in parliament."

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