Albeit an uncomfortable sight, images of women in torn, bloodied wedding dresses seen on billboards in Lebanon and via social media have grabbed much of the country’s attention. As a result of extensive campaigning, the Lebanese parliament, on August 16, voted to abolish the infamous “rape law” which has allowed rapists to avoid prosecution by marrying their victims.
Yes, this is a victory for women and for the Lebanese society as a whole, but this is only the start. This is a positive but overdue step, with much more that needs to be addressed by parliament in order to really safeguard women’s rights.
Until today, child marriage and marital rape are still endured in Lebanon, with further discrimination found in the nationality law that is imposed on women. It is important to address these issues, as they are central in fully achieving women’s rights, providing the dignity that will enable women to contribute more actively in society and participate in local and regional politics.
For instance, Lebanon has also witnessed nationality campaigns, although unsuccessful, pushing to give women the right to pass their nationality to their children or husbands. In addition, the continued existence of child marriage and marital rape means that women remain subject to violence, without any form of legal protection. Child marriage is an act that is a violation of a women’s rights as it is extremely harmful to a woman’s growth, education, and opportunities.
Moreover, a victory like this one will optimistically lead to an eventual change in local discourse when it comes to women, which will benefit the overall development of the Lebanese community. This is because society in Lebanon is deeply affected by the political situation surrounding it.
However, the bright side is that we are witnessing an active involvement by young people who are advocating for a more secular and just country: one that provides equal rights such as citizenship for all, irrespective of religion or gender. This sort of activism in society will play a significant role in creating the awareness needed to begin to alter the patriarchal norms and traditions.
Facilitated by the young generation and an active civil society, this will guide the Lebanese to embrace a new, modernized view in its path towards achieving true and complete gender equality. Hence, along with changing laws, there will need to be a deeper change than that: a change in the Lebanese patriarchal mindset.