It is one the most controversial barriers to women’s rights in Lebanon - a law which exempts rapists from punishment if they marry their victims. However, it may soon be abolished after women took to the streets of Beirut in protest, wearing blood-stained wedding dresses and holding signs that read: "A white dress does not cover up rape. Undress 522."
“We have come to say: Don’t marry us off to our rapist,” said one protester.
"I think that he should be executed or sentenced to life in solitary confinement. The important thing is that he be placed on trial. Somebody hurts us, causes us psychological damage, and makes us ill. We can no longer eat, drink, or think. All we do is wonder: What did we do to deserve this? Is it because we are weak? We are not weak. We are strong."
Article 522 states that if a man rapes an unmarried woman he can avoid prosecution for the crime if he marries the victim.
The demonstration was organized by the Beirut-based Resource Center for Gender Equality (ABAAD) on December 6. After a scheduled review of Article 522 of the penal code, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri tweeted that a parliamentary committee had agreed to push forward with a plan that would abolish the law.
احيي إلغاء لجنة الادارة والعدل المادة ٥٢٢ من العقوبات التي تعفي المغتصب ان هو تزوج ضحيته. بانتظار اكتمال الخطوة الحضارية في اقرب جلسة تشريع— Saad Hariri (@saadhariri) December 7, 2016
I applaud the Committee on Administration and Justice's abolishment of Article 522 of the penal code which exempts a rapist is that he marries the victim, pending the completion of the next legal step.
The details will be deliberated on ًWednesday and from there, it will be referred to parliament for ratification.
ABAAD took to facebook to praise the committee's decision:
Congratulations to all the women and girls in the Lebanese territory," ABAAD said. "The Committee for Administration and Justice has agreed to repeal Article 522 from the Lebanese Criminal Penal Code and more details will be discussed regarding the remaining articles next Wednesday.
Others also tweeted expressing solidarity with ABAAD and condemning the law:
Congratulations #Lebanon on cancelling the shameful article of the criminal code. Finally the #522 has fallen. Thanks brave resistance elements!
The Administration and Justice Committee in Lebanon abolished Article 522 of the Penal Code... Congratulations to all women in Lebanon #White_Doesn't_Coverup_Rape
#الأبيض_ما_بيغطي_الاغتصاب— ملحدة maram (@maram_30sh) December 7, 2016
تزويج المغتصبة للمجرم الذي اغتصبها
هو اغتصاب جماعي للضحية
#White_Doesn't_Coverup_rape. Marrying a rape victim to the criminal who raped her, it’s the collective rape of the victim. Savage societies.
While this is a major victory for women’s rights in Lebanon, there is still a lot of work to be done. Throughout the Middle East, rapists continue to be protected by legal loopholes.
Most recently, the proposal of a similar legal measure came under fire in Turkey, that would have allowed sentencing to be indefinitely postponed in cases of sexual abuse committed "without force, threat or deception", if the perpetrator married the victim.
The ruling AK Party's bill drew condemnation from many, who said it would provide a legal basis for sexual abuse under the pretext of under-age marriages. It was later withdrawn after fierce opposition.
As women across the Middle East continue to raise their voices and fight for their rights, there remains hope that this is the first step towards addressing gender issues and forming a more equal and fair society in the region.
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