Rayan Majed

Failing to stand against domestic violence

The 49 MPs who have not signed a petition for a more robust law against domestic violence

Hassan is five years old and Rouwayda three. On March 19, both children saw their father shoot their mother, 24-year-old Rouqiyya Mounzer, in the chest, resulting in her death. The two children were taken to their paternal grandparents' as their father was arrested.

During a press conference held by the NGO Enough Violence & Exploitation (KAFA) on March 25, Rouqiyya Mounzer's sister Zeina said that Mounzer, who got married at 17, had suffered a lot of violence from her husband in the past. He also forbade his wife from going out and locked her in their home, isolating her from life outside. Apparently Mounzer asked for a divorce, and her husband killed her. Traces of his abuse were still visible all over her body after her death; however, this was not mentioned in the medical examiner's report.

February 2014 witnessed the deaths of both Manal Assi and Christelle Abu Chacra. On March 7, a young man stabbed his sister in the neck and killed her. On March 8, approximately five thousand people took part in a march, organized by KAFA, to call for the adoption of an anti-domestic violence law that has been pending in parliament since 2007. Throughout March, KAFA has received repeated reports of abuse, and dozens of women subjected to their husbands' violence came to the organization's offices.

On March 20, Rouqiyya Mounzer was killed.

Yet all of this failed to motivate 49 MPs, whose names KAFA listed in its press conference, to sign a petition submitted to MPs by the National Coalition for a Law to Protect Women from Domestic Violence. "Maybe some of these MPs do not want to sign [the law]," KAFA wrote on Facebook. "Some of them may be ignoring our demand or may feel the case does not call for swift action."

The demands of the petition, which included comments on the final wording of the draft law adopted in joint parliamentary commissions, can be summarized as follows: provide women with special protection; link protection decisions to public prosecutors' offices rather than to summary proceedings judges; abstain from any linking of children's protection to their custody age; and criminalize marital rape by removing the so-called "marital rights" exception from the draft law. Without these revisions, the draft law, activists at the March 8 protest maintained, was accurately represented by a protest sign that read, "If you kill you shall go to jail, unless you kill your wife."

Crimes of domestic violence are occurring repeatedly against a backdrop of clashes and rights violations. In the latest such incidents, an employee at a foreign workers' employment office "disciplined" Betty, an Ethiopian worker, by flogging and raping her within earshot of the office secretary. Soon afterward, a teacher in a Maqassed school in South Lebanon subjected his pupils to severe beating. The Education minister has subsequently banned the teacher from all teaching positions and legal action was taken against him. Meanwhile, Betty, the Ethiopian worker, told LBC in a televised report that she is lucky to have found someone to stand by her and take legal action against the employee and the secretary, adding that many others have not been so fortunate.

All of the above has failed thus far to prompt Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to hold a special legislative session to adopt the law or to add it as a priority item to the first legislative session of parliament. When NOW called Berri's office to ask about his intended moves on the subject, a spokesman responded that the draft was put on the agenda of the first legislative session of parliament, which is to be held within the 50 days parliament has remaining to issue legislation.

This article has been translated from the original Arabic.
“If you kill you shall go to jail, unless you kill your wife.”
  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    44 of the 49 MPs who refuse to sign are Muslims, and those 5 Christians who refuse to sign do so because they "belong" to a Muslim-led electoral list. This tells you who, by and large in Lebanon, is still living under the primitive edicts of Islam (i.e. support domestic violence as a religious mandate by God that man lords it over woman as property and chattel) and who is moving forward with the times. More to the point, Christian MPs who in their overwhelming majority favor cracking down on domestic violence often do so against their primitive Christian religious establishment, and that is in my mind the basic difference: Christian civilians have the freedom to disagree with their religious establishment, while Muslims remain fearfully subservient to theirs. Those who dream of a secularized Lebanon should realize that as long as the religious Muslim establishment has a grip on life in Lebanon, we will not move one centimeter away from the cesspool in which we have been wading for centuries.

    March 29, 2014