Last week, Lebanese women's rights activists launched a 16-day campaign to push parliament to pass new legislation to protect women from violence inside their homes.
According to the activists, there are currently now laws in the country specifically designed to protect women from domestic violence. Activists said at the launching of the campaign that rarely are perpetrators brought to justice.
The women's rights leaders are pushing parliament to pass a new law that will help encourage victims to come forward by allowing them to report domestic violence with privacy.
Ghida Anani, program coordinator for women's rights group KAFA (Enough) Violence and Exploitation, was quoted as saying her organization has been working on crafting and advocating for the law for three years.
Currently, she says, domestic violence cases are heard in public courts, and women are often afraid to come forward. The law, she says, could change that.
“Everyone can come and listen to the woman when she's talking with the judge about family issues,” said Anani. “So, it's really giving back the family its secrecy and privacy.”
The new law also allows for court-ordered rehabilitation for perpetrators, can force abusers to provide victims with financial compensation, and allows women to file for protection orders against their husbands.
Anani says the law first met with opposition from people who feared it would undermine religious authority in Lebanon. Activists say the country can continue to recognize religious law, while enacting civil laws that protect human rights.
The campaign is also seeking to engage men in women's rights issues in Lebanon. Anthony Keedi, who also works with KAFA, says that, while men are often interested in human rights issues, women's rights struggles are usually a female affair.
“I think they care but they, to a certain extent, might feel that it's not their particular fight,” said Keedi. “Whereas, if you put it in terms of human rights, they're for it altogether.”
Keedi says that he plans to spread the word to men in Lebanon, and then take his campaign across the Middle East.
His work in Lebanon to convince men that violence against women is an issue for both genders, he says, is only the beginning.