Campaigners for a draft law to outlaw domestic violence urged MPs Friday to refrain from passing a “hollowed-out” version of the legislation.
A national campaign in support of criminalizing domestic violence, representing more than 150 nongovernmental organizations, distributed a 64-page report on domestic violence that analyzes the process of submitting complaints on domestic violence under the current penal code.
Zoya Rohana, of the NGO KAFA (Enough) Violence and Discrimination, cited the results of a study that said 35 percent of women surveyed had suffered from domestic violence.
She said the MPs who will be responsible for adopting the draft law are guilty of considering abused women “masochists.”
“One of them used his imagination to say that women are going to install cameras in their bedroom and entice their husbands into committing violent acts, to record them and lodge complaints,” Rohana said.
“This is the level at which this law is being debated.”
Rohana urged members of the parliamentary sub-committee studying the draft to “remember that there are many laws that discriminate against women – it is [your] duty to try to remove these laws, which violate the Lebanese Constitution.”
“Don't carry out your compromises at the expense of women – we won't accept a quasi-law, or one that has been emptied of its content.”
Rohana called spousal violence the “worst kind of family violence” experienced by women and warned MPs against abolishing the article in the draft that criminalizes spousal rape, “under any religious or social pretext.”
If the bill is signed into law, it would assign a public prosecutor in each governorate to investigate reports of domestic violence, create specific sentences for perpetrators, and allow women and children to seek a restraining order within 48 hours.
The country's leading Sunni and Shiite religious institutions have both expressly rejected the proposed law, saying that it violates religious precepts.
Rohana said religious authorities in Lebanon could organize matters related to their respective sectarian communities, but did not have the right to get involved in general legislation.
But when the activists made their arguments, a woman in attendance took issue with Rohana's citing a recent fatwa by a Moroccan preacher who said it was permitted for a husband to have sex with his wife following her demise and before her burial.
The woman objected to Rohana's “false example” because the Moroccan preacher, she said, was guilty of misinterpreting Islam.
The woman said that when one of the partners in a marriage dies, this meant that the marriage was immediately at an end – thus, the “husband” was no longer a husband.
But when the woman continued by saying she opposed violence in general, but not violence between a man and woman, those in attendance became agitated; one activist walked out.
Rohana and others advised the woman to refrain from criticizing the effort to pass the legislation at an event specifically to campaign for the draft.
Fahmieh Charafaddine, from the Civil Committee to Follow up Women's Issues, said that Lebanon was a “secular state and not a religious one, as its penal code is secular.”
Joumana Merhi, head of the Lebanese Women's Democratic Gathering, said it was time lawmakers, and men of religion, supported the draft legislation.