Battle against domestic violence in Lebanon takes another step forward

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Women take a heroic pose during a Kafa protest in Lebanon on February 24, 2013. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

By: Rana Harbi

Published Friday, June 6, 2014

Lebanon’s law against family violence was enforced for the second time on Thursday, when a judge granted a protection order to a mother of two who had been thrown out of her house by her violent husband.

After the first Order of Protection (OFP) was issued last week against a man who had been physically abusing his wife, judge of urgent matters Zalfa al-Hasan issued a second OFP in another domestic violence case on Thursday.

According to KAFA, a civil society organization advocating for women and children's rights, Hasan approved Leila’s – an alias used by the organization – request for an OFP against her husband, who had been abusing her, her two children and her mother-in-law.

“Leila’s husband had thrown Leila and their two children out of their marital house a while ago,” Leila Awada, one of KAFA's co-founders, told Al-Akhbar. “The judge requested that Leila and her children go back home and that the abusive husband leave the house for two extendable weeks.”

Awada said the husband’s mother also requested an OFP against her son who had been abusive with her as well.

“When Leila walked out of that courtroom you could see the relief and happiness in her eyes,” Awada added. “She told KAFA that for the first time in years she feels safe and protected.”

The first OFP came after Public Prosecutor Bilal Dennawi issued on May 30 a warrant for the arrest of a man who had been verbally and physically abusing his wife, according to his neighbors who called the Internal Security Forces emergency hotline.

KAFA reported that medical examinations showed that 24-year-old Rima – an alias used by the organization – had been severely beaten by her husband. The latter was detained for 48 hours and was ordered to return the couple’s 7-month-old daughter to Rima, in accordance with Article 11 of the law.

Moreover, the husband was ordered to undergo a series of therapy sessions held by KAFA.

“The judges’ decisions didn’t only protect the women but also the children,” Awada added. “The judges are filling the gaps present in the recently-endorsed domestic violence law.

Both decisions are in line with the long-awaited 293 law on Protection of Women and Family Members from Domestic Violence, which was approved by the Lebanese parliament in April.
The law was the first legislation against domestic violence in Lebanon.

KAFA says it receives more than 2,600 calls to its domestic abuse helpline each year. Analysis of media reports done by KAFA shows that 25 women were killed by family members between 2010 and 2013 and four women have died as a result of family violence in Lebanon so far in 2014.

Activists had criticized the law’s shortcomings, saying that it falls short of providing full protection from abuse.

KAFA had denounced legislators for not considering a list of amendments they recommended to enhance the bill, and had said they would press parliament to pass amendments to expand the law’s protection of women.

The current law fails to specify domestic abuse as a crime committed against women and doesn't go far enough on the issue of child custody.

“Even though the MPs chose to ignore the amendments we proposed on the child custody issue, the judges are choosing to protect the children despite their age and the parental custody rights as dictated by the unjust Lebanese family laws,” Awada said.

An earlier draft of the law criminalized marital rape, but the provision was removed after it sparked a backlash from religious and political authorities.

“The two OFPs are huge steps in the right direction,” Awada concluded. “Serious changes regarding women's rights in Lebanon still need to be implemented but we have come a long way.”

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