A controversial law protecting rapists in Lebanon is expected to be reconsidered in parliament this week. Article 522 in Lebanese penal law allows men who rape women to avoid prosecution if they marry their victims.
The law can also suspend any conviction for a person who has committed rape, kidnapping, or statutory rape. The only stipulation is marrying the victim.
In December, members of the Parliamentary Committee for Administration and Justice announced an agreement to repeal the law, but a decision has not been formally made. The law must go before the full Lebanese parliament for review.
“The current law allows for a second assault on a rape survivor’s rights in the name of ‘honor’ by trapping her in a marriage with her rapist,” said Rothna Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Protecting honor should be about ensuring that attackers are punished and promoting social attitudes that support survivors of sexual violence instead of stigmatizing them.”
The renewed push to repeal and reform this law is coming from Lebanese women’s rights groups, namely Abaad, a group that has invested thousands of dollars in advertising, public campaigns and billboards to end the law. They also created the hashtag #Undress522.
Ali Awada, advocacy manager for Abaad, told Public Radio International that the group’s public service campaigns are working.
“It worked at the policy level with different decision-makers,” says Awada. “After this series of lobbying meetings, we managed to get this draft law discussed inside the parliament with different political affiliates, and the final voting will be this week, with hopefully a ‘yes’ to abolish article 522.”
Awada points to tragic examples when similar laws have resulted in serious women’s rights violations.
In a widely publicized case, a Moroccan teen committed suicide in November 2013 after her family forced her to marry her rapist, according to Al Jazeera.
The suicide happened amid 2013 efforts to repeal Moroccan penal code Article 475, which also allows rapists who marry their victims to walk free.