Lebanon abolishes law that allows rapists escape punishment by marrying their victims

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Brides-to-be participate in the "Running of the Brides" race in a park in Bangkok, Thailand March 25, 2017. Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

Lebanon has joined Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan in scrapping a law that allows rapists to get away from prosecution by marrying their victims. The decision is a victory for women in Lebanon who have long campaigned for the parliament to abolish Article 522.

“Today, we want to congratulate the women of Lebanon,” lawyer Danielle Howayek from the Beirut-based women’s rights group Abaad said. Although he recognises that there is still a long way to go for Lebanese law to protect women, abolishing the “marry-your-rapist” provision is a huge step towards achieving that goal.

The phenomenon, which dates back to 1943 in Lebanon, was common among conservative families seeking to maintain families' "honour.” According to global campaign group Equality Now, there are still countries that let rapists escape punishment if they choose to marry their victims. These include Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Tajikistan.

For Politician Elie Kayrouz, the move reflects a positive development in Lebanon’s legislation. He said that other clauses also require change to ensure women and children are protected.

Earlier this month, Jordan abolished a similar law. Meanwhile, Tunisia passed a law last month that seeks to protect women against violence, which included abolishing a similar clause.

The law was scrapped in Egypt in 1999. Morocco abolished it in 2014 following the suicide of a 16-year-old girl who was forced to marry the man who raped her. Last year, Abaad graced a protest outside Lebanon's parliament in which women wore wedding dresses stained with red that resembled blood.

A third of females around the world have suffered sexual or physical violence, the UN said. One in every ten girls were raped or sexually assaulted.

Article 522 in Lebanon’s penal code

Article 522 is a statute stating that rape is punishable by seven years in jail. Anyone who raped a minor or a person with mental or physical disabilities will face greater punishment, but the article’s loophole said that criminal prosecution will be suspended if the rapist and the victim marry for a minimum of three years.

Feminist campaign group Equality Now’s Middle East and North Africa consultant Suad Abu Dayyeh agreed that the decision was a powerful step forward in the region. She said there are many battles left.

These include divorce, custody and alimony cases and how women are treated in marriage, the Independent reports. Those, she said, will be their next agenda, and Abu Dayyeh is expecting more victories to come.

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