Lebanon’s parliament is in the process of passing a new sexual harassment law that criminalizes sexual harassment. This new law would result in up to a four-year prison sentence and fines that are almost 50 times the minimum wage in the country according to Aljazeera. The law also allows for protection to any witnesses and victims who testify in court, this is an attempt to offer support and rehabilitation to victims of sexual harassment and allow these victims the opportunity to seek compensation under the law. This is done through the creation of a new fund by the Social Affairs ministry according to Aljazeera. This new law encompasses the criminalization of harassment that takes place verbally, physically, through signals or sexual pornographic hints and the use of electronics. Aljazeera states that harassment does not need to be recurring for it to fall under this new law.
Danielle Hoyek, a lawyer who works with ABAAD, a well-known non-government gender equality organization helping to implement this new law, stated, “It’s a very good law that should serve as a deterrent.” She also told Aljazeera, “It also provides a little bit of hope during this economic and social crisis Lebanon is going through. It shows that we aren’t living by the law of the jungle, that there are laws that you can lean on.” She further stated that this new law is exceptional because of how broad it is, including any form of unwanted sexual harassment that a victim might face.
This law is the first in Lebanon to criminalize any form of sexual harassment and abuse and to tackle some of the many gender equality barriers that women in Lebanon face under the law. For instance, marital rape is still legal, and thousands of non-Lebanese female domestic workers are not included under basic labour laws that protect against any form of workplace harassment. Though this is the case, a new law is also being spoken about in Parliament that attempts to amend a 2014 domestic violence law according to Aljazeera. This law would now include domestic violence not just during the marriage but even after a divorce.
Lebanon is making numerous attempts to try and tackle gender-based and sexual violence in their country. The large fines and the possibility of jail time can be a deterrent to the sexual violence and harassment that was never recognized or protected under the law. Everyone has the right to receive justice in court and Lebanon is making progressive steps towards bettering the sexual violence situation in their country. They are creating a safe space that allows for sexual violence victims to speak up and know that they are seen under the law. The compensation from the social affairs ministry and the protection of victims and witnesses who speak up in court should persuade more victims to tell their story. Time will tell if this new law puts a stop to sexual violence and harassment in the country.