Laws and the Legal Environment
Lebanon’s legal system is a patriarchal sectarian one. Fifteen distinct religious bodies have the authority to govern the domestic affairs of segments of the population with regards to marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance. This results in multiple layers of inequality for Lebanese women.
In addition, the Lebanese Penal Code – which has not been comprehensively revised in over 70 years – is not only considered a primary source of discrimination against women, but it also lacks adequate sanctions that may contribute to changing the stereotyped behaviour of discrimination against women.
One recent legislative addition directly tackles violence – law #293 (2017) on domestic violence.
Another law – Article 522 of the penal code that allowed rapists to marry their victims – was abolished in the same year.
Lebanon has signed a number of international conventions and agreements that are not enforced and that are at times in conflict with its own national laws, resulting in a breach of its obligations under international law.
The National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW) is one of the national commissions concerned with women’s affairs, and enjoys advisory, coordination and executive functions. It is an institution affiliated to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers that was established in 1998. The Department of Women’s Affairs of the Ministry of Social Affairs is one of the other commissions responsible for monitoring, promoting and protecting women’s rights and conducts some activities to mitigate harm that results from gender-based violence, such as providing advice and shelter for survivors. The Office of the Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs was established in 2017.
Recent changes in Lebanese laws that seek to improve the status and protection of women have coincided with, if not been directly instigated by, changes in other Arab countries. Most countries in the Arab world struggle with similar laws that discriminate against women and fail to offer them adequate protection.
Lebanon adopted the “Arab Strategy on Women, Security and Peace” accredited by the Secretariat of the League of Arab States in 2012, in addition to the “Cairo Declaration on Arab Women”, which can be considered as “an agenda for Arab women beyond 2015”. The Declaration addresses the political, economic, health and social fields as well as violence against women and violence in times of war and conflict.
Acts of gender-based violence violate a number of human rights principles enshrined in international human rights instruments. These include, amongst others:
- the right to life, liberty and security of person
- the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
- the right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment
- the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to education, to social security and to personal development.
The following international instruments address the problem of GBV with a view to eliminating all forms of it globally:
- Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948)
- The Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols (1949, 1977)
- Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of Others (1949)
- The Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages (1964)
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – CEDAW and its optional protocol (1979, 2000)
- Convention Against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two optional protocols (1989, 2000, 2011)
- Recommendation 19 on Violence Against Women of the Committee on the CEDAW (1992)
- Vienna Declaration and Plan for Action (1993)
- The UN Declaration on Violence Against Women (1993)
- Declaration and Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (1994)
- The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995)
- Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000)