Activists in Lebanon celebrate draft law on domestic violence – Legislation to be included in Parliament’s next session
The official issuance of the final version of the KAFA Draft Law on the Protection of Women from Family Violence, and its inclusion in the next general parliamentary session where it will be voted upon, was celebrated at the “Enough violence and exploitation” event at UNESCO Palace that took place last week.
Organized by women’s rights NGO KAFA, the Italian Embassy and The National Coalition for Legislating the Protection of Women from Family Violence, the event also honored high profile celebrities for their work in combating violence against women.
Actress Carmen Lebbos, who acted as Master of Ceremony, was one of the celebrities that were honored at the event for participating in the recent TV-spots and billboards that called attention to the plight of abused women. Other honorees included singer Yara, actress Nada Abu Farhat and actors Rafik Ali Ahmad and Yorgo Shalhoub.
Ghida Anani, co-founder of KAFA and coordinator of the event, said the honored artists played a crucial role in reaching the masses. “I have witnessed an upward spiral in media attention for our cause. Aside from the TV-spots, talk shows and documentaries are putting our cause in the forefront and as a result it is fighting the taboo surrounding this issue,” she said.
Minister of State Amal Ofeish also showed her dedication to eradicating gender-based violence and her support of the ‘Family Violence’ bill.
Fadi Karam, representative of First Lady Wafaa Sleiman, the president of the National Commission for Lebanese Women Issues, hoped that the law would be passed swiftly and urged all public sectors and civil society actors to coordinate in order to reach the broader goal of an “all-encompassing solution to humanitarian issues.”
Social Affairs Minister Salim Sayegh, reiterated the government’s full support for the draft law and the campaign launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, “United to end Violence against Women.”
“The government’s policy statement reaffirms Lebanese commitment to all international conventions concerning women’s rights and will work towards eradicating all forms of violence against women.” Sahegh said. “We have prepared several concepts that the government is currently trying to concretize into practical solutions,” he added.
Sayegh told The Daily Star: “Today’s event was a bouquet of heartfelt testimonies about the injustice of a society that has all means to provide for women’s safety. There is a great discrepancy between the Lebanese lifestyle and the absence of women’s rights that safeguard their protection.”
The hopeless situation that many women in Lebanon are finding themselves in the absence of proper legislation was epitomized by the heart wrenching experiences told by victims of domestic violence.
“The beaten women here today have taught us a lesson in courage. We should denunciate this lack of protecting them in the name of shame,” Sayegh said.
“These violent actions deserve no other name than crime. Today we have broken the curtain of silence which will hopefully be the beginning of a long-awaited and much needed transformation of our society,” he added.
Although the Lebanese Constitution guarantees equality between men and women before the law, Lebanon’s legislation fails to be in accordance with the international human rights agreements it has ratified.
With the support of the Delegation of the European Commission, KAFA, a Lebanese non-governmental organization dedicated to eradicating gender-based violence, child abuse and human trafficking, prepared a Draft Law on the Protection of Women from Family Violence in 2008, which “criminalizes all forms of family violence and sets a range of provisions to protect and empower women within the family.”
KAFA’s director Zoya Rouhana said she was very optimistic about the passing of the Draft Law, as was already a great accomplishment that it was included in the ministerial statement. “The tremendous support for this law shown by MP Gilberte Zouein who heads the Woman and Child Parliamentary Committee and the Minister of Social Affairs is reason for optimism.”
Addressing the next step that will be taken if the draft law is passed, Anani said: “Our main mission will be to ensure its implementation. We will start a campaign promoting it, raising awareness and fighting illiteracy so as to make sure that women know their rights and how to fully benefit from them.”