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Girls & Women

Lebanon Closes Legal Loophole Allowing Rapists to Marry Victims

Twitter: @WomenintheWorld

Women in Lebanon have cause to celebrate today. After years of campaigning, Lebanon’s contentious “rape law” has been overturned.

Article 522 of Lebanon’s penal code exempts perpetrators of rape, kidnapping, and statutory rape from prosecution if they marries their victims. Rape in Lebanon is technically punishable by up to seven years in prison; however, article 522, which has been around since the 1940s, provides a loophole for rapists and kidnappers to avoid serious punishment.

Now, it no longer will.

This is a massive step forward for women and girls in Lebanon.

While different groups and activists have campaigned over the years, Lebanon-based NGO ABAAD’s efforts have garnered the most attention in recent months. The organization launched a chilling campaign called “A White Dress Doesn’t Cover the Rape” in December of last year.

In April, Lebanese artist Mireille Honein teamed up with ABAAD to exhibit her art installation in Paris and Beirut. The haunting work featured 30 wedding dresses strung up with nooses in a public space. 

Read more: Lebanese Women Hang Wedding Dresses from Nooses to Protest Cruel Rape Law

"I hung them up, because this type of law simply robs women of their essence, leaves them without an identity and suspends them in a life that does not suit them and is shameful for those imposing it on them," Honein told Al Jazeera.

Yesterday, in anticipation of today’s debate in parliament, women in white gowns and fake blood stationed themselves outside a government building in Beirut to demonstrate their support for the law’s repeal.

Lebanon’s move to strike Article 522 has been long-awaited and follows closely on the heels of similar decisions in Jordan and Tunisia — both of which repealed their “marry-the-rapist” laws in the last three weeks. Though a parliamentary committee announced its intention to remove the law eight months ago, according to CNN, the proposal to abolish the law was only accepted by the Lebanese parliament in February and reviewed today.

Read more: Jordan Officially Repeals Law That Lets Rapists Off the Hook if They Marry Their Victims

Several other countries in the region, like Algeria, Iraq, and Syria, still have similar laws, but loophole laws like these are not exclusive to the Middle East. According to Human Rights Watch, France had a comparable law until 1994 and Costa Rica only revised theirs in 2007.

Samira Atallah of Equality Now called today’s ruling “a significant and long-overdue step towards the elimination of all forms of violence against women in Lebanon,” in a statement to Global Citizen.

Global Citizen campaigns against child marriage and in support of Global Goal No. 5 toward gender equality. Take action to prevent sexual violence against women and girls here