Lebanon Abolishes ‘Marry-Your-Rapist’ Laws

Lebanon has joined a wave of other Middle Eastern states to outlaw the practice that allowed rapists to fight prosecution by marrying their victims. While Jordan and Tunisia abolished similar provisions last month, Egypt and Morocco made similar changes to domestic laws in 1999 and 2014.

The campaign against the Lebanese rape-marriage law Article 522 argued for the repeal of a provision that allowed accused and convicted rapists to avoid criminal prosecution if they married their victims. The law violated basic women’s rights and traumatized victims of rape by trapping them in a marital relationship with their rapists.

The campaign was led by advocacy group ABAAD alongside other activist groups to raise awareness about the consequences of the law and advocate for victims of sexual assault. In April, the ABAAD campaign introduced a new campaign called “A White Dress Does Not Cover Rape” along with producing viral videos, a billboard showing a woman in a bloodied and torn gown, and online petitions.

An art installation by Lebanese artist Mireille Honein included 31 wedding dresses hung between the palm trees along the Corniche Beirut, a famous sea side promenade. Lebanese Minister for women’s affairs Jean Oghassabian called the law a measure “from the Stone Age.”

The Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World at the Lebanese American University has asserted that gender-based violence is the most “obvious manifestation of gender inequality in Lebanon.” According to the institute’s director, Lina Abirafeh, this can be attributed to the lack of legal provisions that criminalize marital rape. “The Lebanese parliament, at last, took a step towards women’s rights…but there is still much to work to do,” she told Al Jazeera. “It is not enough to change laws. Everyone in Lebanon must act to change the way society views women…This victory is one small step in the right direction.”

Danielle Hweik, a legal adviser at ABAAD, called the move in Lebanon “a huge step forward.” While this is a huge step in countering gender-based violence in the Middle East, states liked Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Syria still lack laws that prohibit the practice.

Nishtha Sharma