The Lebanese Parliament should adopt proposed domestic abuse legislation as soon as possible, UN representatives urged on Friday. The call was made at the closing session of a three-day event “Implementing the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and ending violence against women” which was jointly organized by the Lebanese Parliament and the UN Development Program (UNDP). The workshop was attended by international and local parliamentarians and human rights activists.
A draft law on domestic violence was endorsed by the Cabinet in April and submitted to Parliament for review but has not yet reached the floor of the legislature due a backlog in other proposed legislation. Various national representatives, speaking during the event, have insisted that the law would come up for review shortly following the summer break.
“Violence against women and girls is a violation of human rights and an extreme form of gender-based discrimination,” said Marta Ruedas, UNDP deputy special coordinator for Lebanon. “Combating violence against women is linked to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.” The law pushes for the criminalization of family or domestic violence, which includes the incitement of begging or prostitution and forcing sexual relations on a spouse. It also specifically condemns “honor crimes” and prescribes the death penalty for premeditated acts of homicide against female family members.
“[Domestic violence] includes acts that inflict physical, mental, sexual or economic harm or suffering, threats of such acts, and other deprivations of liberty, whether committed inside or outside the family residence,” the proposed law said. A complaints and protection mechanism for victims is also prescribed in the legislation. “This legislation gives a unique opportunity for the Parliament to play a key role in addressing violence against women and to ensure that this violence constitutes a criminal offence,” said Ruedas and “that women and girls who are victims of violence have access to immediate means of redress and protection and that the perpetrators are prosecuted and punished.”
Lebanon has signed and ratified the 1997 UN-backed CEDAW treaty but made reservations regarding articles pertaining to women's nationality, family and marriage relations. Under the treaty Lebanon is obliged to submit periodic reviews on the status of women in the country. The last such review, released in 2008, exposed several weaknesses in existing legislation. The UN subsequently published a list of recommendations which included increasing female representation in elections and ensuring equal opportunities in the labor market. The UN estimates that one in three Lebanese women will be subjected to harassment or physical and psychological harm at some point in their lives.