A couple of weeks after Freedom United joined the campaign, Lebanon has became the latest Arab state to do away with a law that allowed rapists to get off with no punishment if they simply married their victim.
“Lawmakers voted on Wednesday to repeal an article of the Lebanese penal code that deals with rape, assault, kidnapping and forced marriage. Jordan and Tunisia banned similar laws this year. Article 522 includes a provision that allows rapists to avoid criminal prosecution if they marry their victim. Its abolition follows a lengthy campaign by activists. “Congratulations to women in Lebanon,” the NGO Abaad wrote on its Facebook page. “Today’s win is a victory for the dignity of women. It is no longer possible to escape punishment for rape and sexual acts carried out by force and coercion.” Abaad campaigned against article 522 for more than a year. It posted billboards of women in bloodied and torn wedding gowns with the caption: “A white dress does not cover the rape.””
There are actually no accurate numbers of rapists who married their victims. The practice, according to activists took place mainly in rural regions.
Bassam Khawaja, a Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch said,“This is a very positive and long overdue development for the protection of women’s rights in Lebanon. At the same time in Lebanon there are several long overdue women’s rights developments that we still have to tackle. So parliament should … immediately pass legislation to end marital rape and also child marriage, which is still legal in Lebanon.”
Building on momentum in the region, Freedom United’s campaign supported national efforts to repeal ‘marry your rapist’ laws that allowed perpetrators to escape punishment. Article 522 of the Penal Code was repealed by Parliament but our work continues to repeal Articles 505 and 518 to help end forced marriage.
Rights groups hope the momentum will influence other Arab countries with similar provisions – such as Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Syria – to follow suit.
Some countries in the region have closed similar loopholes. Egypt repealed the law in 1999, and Morocco in 2014 after the suicide of a 16-year-old girl and the attempted suicide of a 15-year-old, both of whom had been forced to marry their rapists.