Hanine El Mir & Hadi Afif
Copy Editor & Editor-at-Large
The Lebanese parliament met on Wednesday, August 16 for the first time in over two years to vote on a number of laws. 28 articles were scheduled on the meeting’s agenda.
The parliament came together in 2014 with aims to elect a new president, but had also met since then, during which time no laws could be passed due to the absence of a head of state. October 2016, however, marked the election of Lebanon’s first president in more than two years.
Since 2009, NGO Animals Lebanon has been working on passing an animal welfare law in Lebanon. The law campaign was launched in October of the same year.
The draft, with its 11 chapters and 30 articles, was officially released in November 2011.
The law focuses on wildlife, domestic animals, stray animals, farm animals and animals used for entertainment in circuses and zoos.
Animals Lebanon has been operating closely with the Ministry of Agriculture to further improve the law, after it passed in the first phase of voting in January 2015 with 25 ministers agreeing on it.
“If the law passes the way it is now, Lebanon would be among the top 30 countries worldwide with the best animal welfare laws,” said Jason Mier, director of Animals Lebanon, in a 2015 interview with Outlook. He added that [Animals Lebanon] estimated that it would take at least 5 years for the law to be enacted after its release in 2011.
Before the enactment of the new law, the penalty for animal abuse, if applied, was less than 15 dollars. The last time it was applied was over 20 years ago.
A PDF version of the complete law can be found on the NGO’s website in both Arabic and English.
During the meeting, the Lebanese parliament also appealed article 522 of the Lebanese penal code.
Article 522 was first introduced into the Lebanese penal code in 1948, stating that prosecution of a rapist is suspended if a valid contract of marriage is made between the perpetrator and the victim.
The Committee for Administration and Justice of the Lebanese parliament declared its abolition in February 2017, which was voted on by the Lebanese parliament on Wednesday.
Abaad, a local NGO and women’s rights group, headed the campaign to abolish article 522 with support from the Minister for Women’s Affairs, Jean Oghassabian, who had previously expressed his disapproval of the law.
Over the past year, the NGO campaigned for the removal of the article from the penal code through billboards, online videos, and a petition.
“Congratulations to women in Lebanon,” posted the NGO on its Facebook page. “Today’s accomplishment is a victory for the dignity of women and it is no longer possible to escape prosecution for rape and sexual assault.”
Oghassabian also took to Twitter writing: “While we welcome the repeal of Article 552 of the penal code, we have reservations regarding keeping Articles 505 and 518. There are no exceptions for escaping punishment for rape.”
The articles mentioned in Oghassabian’s tweet allow for the provision in article 522 to be maintained if the sexual assault is carried out on a girl between 15 and 18 providing that she give consent (under article 505), or if there was a promise of marriage before the sexual act (article 518).
With this repeal, Lebanon has joined countries like Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt in cancelling laws that allow rapists to marry their victims to escape legal punishment.