Global Violence Against Women

Lebanon Repeals Legal Loopholes for Rapists

Last week, the Lebanese Parliament voted to repeal Article 522 of the government’s penal code which halts the prosecution or conviction of an alleged rapist if the perpetrator marries their victim. Lebanon joins Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia on the list of countries to recently repeal similar legislation.

These laws, commonly referred to by women’s rights advocates as “rape laws,” offer a loophole for sexual assailants to avoid jail time by agreeing to marry their victim. Similarly, women’s rights advocates have worked on campaigns to have these laws repealed so that women who have been assaulted cannot be revictimized by being coerced into marrying their assailant. The repeal of rape laws is a step toward protecting women’s basic human rights.

After a nationwide campaign against the rape law by Lebanese women’s rights group ABAAD Institution for Gender Equality, Lebanese parliamentarians finally voted to repeal Article 522 after a proposal was submitted last December. The campaign, in collaboration with UN Women Lebanon, included online petitions, billboards, and even a concert to address long held societal norms that helped keep the rape law in place. While the victory was celebrated in Lebanon, advocates have not lost sight of the work that remains. While the Lebanese Parliament repealed Article 522, Articles 505 and 518 remain in the penal code and allows the loophole to apply for those accused of assaulting minors under the age of 15.

On August 1st, the Jordanian Parliament voted to repeal Article 308 of the penal code, which, much like Lebanon’s article 522, allowed rapists to avoid prosecution if they agree to marry their victim to protect their “honor.” The repeal has passed the Parliament and is expected to pass the Senate and be approved by King Abdullah II. Wafa Bani Mustafa, a Jordanian Parliament member and women’s rights advocate, remarked on the progress that remains in changing the mindset of society but that the repeal of the law “is a strong message to society” and is the first step in the right direction.

In 2014, Morocco repealed their rape law, Article 475.  Article 475 stated that a rapist cannot be prosecuted if they marry their victim. In some cases, rape victims were forced to marry their attackers by their families in order to protect the family’s honor. Morocco’s Article 475 came under international scrutiny in 2012, when a 16 year old girl committed suicide after being forced to marry her rapist, who was almost a decade older than her.

According to Al-Jazeera, these rape laws stem from colonial laws such as the Napoleonic Code and Latin laws. In France, similar legislation was struck down in 1994.

UN Women declared the repeal of Lebanon’s Article 522, the repeal of similar legislation in many other states, as a “historic day” and a symbol of progress in the campaign to end violence against women.

Media Resources:  UN Women 8/18/17; Al-Jazeera 8/1/17, 8/4/17, 8/24/17; BBC 8/16/17; New York Times 8/1/17; Feminist Newswire 1/24/13