February 20 2013

Lebanese Women Demand Marital Rape Protections

Emily Wismer

 

A Lebanese mother of three recently recounted her abuse story to CNN: when pregnant with her first child, she was beaten by her husband. After giving birth, he broke her nose, but her family advised her not to divorce him, fearing she could loose her children. Her husband then continually raped her, intentionally impregnating her so she would not leave him.

Lebanese women have limited protections against rape or sexual violence in marriage. According to the LA Times, “Under Lebanese law, spousal rape is not considered a crime, and neither is domestic violence.  Moreover, the Lebanese criminal code stipulates that if a man rapes a woman, his sentence will be annulled if he agrees to marry her.

Efforts to provide police training, judicial protection for women within marriage, and criminalize spousal rape is receiving opposition from Sunni and Shia authorities who believe the bill takes away some of their legal powers. According to CNN, spousal rape:

…cases in Lebanon are typically heard in the religious courts, which often respond with rulings focused on preserving the family unit, rather protecting women from violence.

It's a response that abused women are usually met with from police as well, says Lebanese lawyer Amer Badreddine.

"They are told to solve the problem amicably, to keep it a family issue and not cause embarrassment to themselves by bringing it to the police," said Badreddine, who specializes in domestic violence cases.

This leaves many women living with rape perpetrators, unable to receive justice or seek physical protection.

Lebanon’s legal system enables violent husbands and protects them under the law. Reform is needed immediately to give women real protection under the law. Yet legal and judicial reform in itself is not enough. The best protection against rape will be societal reform that values women as equal partners in sex and marriage.

 

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