Domestic-Violence Bill Advances in Lebanon

Defying a ban on protests around the Lebanese parliament, activists demonstrated in downtown Beirut in support of proposed legislation that would protect women from domestic abuse. Saad Oulwa reports that a final draft of the legislation is nearly complete and will go to joint parliamentary committees for consideration next week.

al-monitor  Photo by REUTERS/Nikola Solic.

Topics covered

shant janjanian, nejme square, nabil nkoula, draft law, domestic violence

Jul 12, 2012

The story ended as many do. The debate between Junaid and his wife Lamia became heated and he slapped her, causing her to fall to the ground. Twenty other women like Lamia fell to the ground in Nejme Square in front of the Lebanese parliament building in Beirut in protest of domestic violence against women in Lebanon.

On July 10, civil activists hired the theatrical group "Zokak," to act out a scene between a quarreling husband and wife under the scrutinizing eyes of passers-by in downtown Beirut. These people were unaware that the scene was staged.

Activists demanded that the draft law criminalizing domestic violence not be distorted. They said children were also victims, as they are mentally affected by the violence committed against their mothers. Twenty young people, along with young children, managed to sneak into Nejme Square, where protests and sit-ins are banned to preserve the security around Parliament.

The theatrical scene coincided with the weekly meeting of the parliamentary sub-committee charged with studying a draft law to protect women from domestic violence. This was used to pressure parliament and to ensure that civil society is following the phases of adopting the law, as well as monitoring any possible amendments to it.

Members of Parliament Shant Janjanian and Nabil Nkoula had previously withdrawn from this committee alleging that it had "distorted the contents of the draft law."

As-Safir obtained information from well-informed sources that during the July 10 session, MPs emphasized protection for women in the draft law. This comes after the draft law had been previously amended from one that protects women alone to one that protects all family members from violence. However, changing the label did not change the content, and the draft is not exclusive to women alone. The new title of the draft law has become "Protection of Women and Other Family Members from Domestic Violence."

These same sources confirmed that the final drafting of the law is almost ready and that it will be forwarded to the joint parliamentary committees to be completed during next week's session.

The committee has also discussed the establishment of the Special Compensation Fund for Domestic Violence, which will come into effect regardless of the law’s status. MPs agreed that this fund would be independent and affiliated with the Ministry of Social Affairs. Sources said the fund will be financed through the budget or through donations.

Other parliamentary sources talked about amendments to the law saying that "the protection measures must be improved. The study we conducted addressed the issue of including other family members in the law. However, the final draft has yet to be completed."

The sub-committee MPs are planning to organize a public seminar with regard to the draft law to inform the public of their progress. They also hope to clarify any disagreements.

The theatrical scene in front of parliament ended when activists started shouting slogans saying: "One woman dies every month, we will not remain silent," and "Mr. Parliamentarian where have you been? We have a law to discuss."

Activists marched to Riad al-Solh Square and raised banners addressed to MPs reading: "Your responsibility is to protect us, our responsibility is to hold you accountable." They have also distributed leaflets bearing the MPs photos and warning against the distortion of laws, under the slogan: "We want a law to exclusively protect women from domestic violence... Watch them and hold them accountable."

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