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Lebanon: Don’t let rapists & sexual harassers go free!
25 JULY 2018 UPDATE: Following our joint submission with partners in Lebanon to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (the Committee), while commending the repeal of Article 522 of the Lebanese Penal Code, on 9 May 2018, the Committee expressed its concern that articles 505 and 518 of the Criminal Code are still used to exempt rapists of minors between 15 and 18 years of age from prosecution or punishment when the survivors have been promised for marriage to the rapists by their parents. The Committee urged Lebanon to “amend articles 505 and 518 of the Criminal Code to ensure that perpetrators of rape incur criminal responsibly without exception and regardless of the age of the victim.”
Equality Now and the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Woman (LECORVAW) in Lebanon renew its call to the Speaker of the House to submit the proposed November 2017 bill, for vote in the new Parliament, submitted by three parliamentarians, in consultation with the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW), to amend articles addressing sex with and sexual harassment of minors in order to close the remaining loopholes in the law.
13 NOVEMBER 2017 UPDATE: The momentum to close remaining loopholes allowing impunity for rapists and sexual harassers is growing! On 2 November 2017, a proposal to amend articles in the Penal Code addressing sex with and sexual harassment of minors was submitted to the Speaker of the House by three members of Parliament, in consultation with the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW). The bill would also repeal Article 518 of the Penal Code allowing the "seduction" of girls for the purpose of marriage.
Please call on the Speaker of the House to submit the bill to the full Parliament for a vote! The next Parliamentary session could happen at any time.
Articles under review:
• Article 505 currently allows for the marriage of, and therefore sex with, minors who are 15 years old up to 18 years old in "consensual" relationships under the supervision of a judge and a social worker. If amended, Article 505 would instead punish those who have sex with 15 -18 year olds, without any exceptions for subsequent marriage.
• If repealed, Article 518 would no longer allow prosecutions to be stopped or sentences to be suspended for men who go on to marry virgin girls they had initially “seduced” with promises of marriage.
• If amended, Article 519 would no longer consider a minor’s “consent” in cases of sexual harassment of 15 year olds up to 18 year olds.
16 AUGUST 2017 UPDATE: Lebanon's parliament has voted for the full repeal of Article 522 of the Penal Code! Going forward rapists and other sexual abusers who marry their victims will no longer enjoy impunity for their crimes. This is yet another momentous victory in the Arab region following Jordan and Tunisia's reforms and should encourage other countries in the region that still have these discriminatory legal provisions. Congratulations to all the activists who worked tirelessly for years to make this happen! We are coordinating with our partners to make sure that no other gaps in protecting women and girls' rights to be free from sexual violence remain in the law.
Amal* was just 12 years old when she was raped by a 24-year-old man in Lebanon. Our partners at the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Woman (LECORVAW) came to her aid, making sure that her rapist was arrested. Sadly, however, Amal did not get justice. Because the rapist and his family knew that by law – specifically Article 522 of the Lebanese Penal Code which was enacted to preserve “the honor and dignity of the victim’s family” – he could escape prosecution by marrying his victim, they pressured Amal’s family to force a marriage, including with offers of money. Though Amal’s parents didn’t accept the offer or accept the bribe, the criminal court freed the rapist on bail. And, because of the heavy stigma placed on rape survivors, Amal’s parents did not push further for a prosecution. Rather, believing that marriage is her only option, they engaged Amal to a relative. Now Amal is not only a rape survivor, but is also under threat of “child marriage” – a common situation for girls who are raped in Lebanon and in other parts of the world where such laws still exist.
There is hope, however, for Amal and the thousands of girls who are victims of these types of legal “rape exemptions.” On 7 December 2016, the Lebanese Parliamentary Administration and Justice Committee approved the repeal of Article 522 from the Penal Code. If Parliament votes yes, then perpetrators of rape, kidnapping or statutory rape would not be able to escape prosecution or other penalties by marrying their victims.
Repealing Article 522 would help end the re-victimization of rape and sexual assault survivors and put Lebanon in compliance with its obligations under international law, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
*not her real name