For the first time in Lebanese history, government ministers have promised to introduce legal reforms to protect women against violence.
The Family Violence Bill now under consideration is the result of a fifteen year campaign headed by women to bring the law onto their side. Zoya Rouhana, Caroline Succar and Ghada Al Sahili spoke to Jane Gabriel about the long struggle to put an end to the private justice within Lebanese extended families that causes so much of the violence against women.
There are nineteen religious sects in Lebanon, fifteen of which have their own personal status codes that govern so much of women's lives. Divided by religion, the personal status codes are united in their discrimination against women. For years women have tried to get the personal status codes amended without success. The Family Violence Bill avoids confrontation with the personal status codes and the religious groups behind them, because it is a civil law bringing violence against women into the public domain and requiring the State to take a role in protecting women
The Family Violence Bill will also go some way to addressing ‘honour killings' which are dealt with under Article 562 of the Lebanese penal code. Research by Dr Azza Baydoun into the facts behind recent honour killings revealed the crimes to be the tip of the iceberg, behind which lies a pattern of persistent daily violence against women within their extended families. The women murdered in ‘honour killings' had suffered violence for a long time before they were killed. By making violence a crime wherever it is committed the Family Violence Bill is intended to play a preventive role by preventing violence from the first time it starts.
The Lebanese government will consider the Bill in the coming months before presenting it to Parliament. Read more on the campaign to turn the Bill into Law. Meanwhile KAFA is campaigning full time and has launched a short film competition called Create a Film, Create a Law to find the best short film to convince legislators that a law on domestic violence is crucial.
Zoya Rouhana is a former member of the Executive Committee of the League of Lebanese Women's Rights. She was also a founder member of the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women. She is the director of KAFA (Enough) Violence & Exploitation, a civil association focusing on fighting violence against women, child sexual abuse and trafficking.
Caroline Succar works for the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering which runs centres for women suffering from violence and campaigns for the implementation of CEDAW in Lebanon.
Dr Ghada Al Sahili is a paediatrician working with Elissar, to break the taboo around the issue of violence against women and to offer services to women suffering from violence