Watch: Women in bloody wedding dresses protest Lebanese law absolving rapists who marry victims

"We have come to say: don't marry us off to our rapist," said one protestor. "I think that he should be executed or sentenced to life... the important thing is that he be placed on trial."

December 11, 2016 16:56
2 minute read.
protest in Lebanon

Women protest Lebanese law absolving rapists who marry victims.. (photo credit: screenshot)

A campaign protesting an article of Lebanon's penal code which exempts rapists from punishment if they marry their victims made major strides last week, according to a report on Al-ARabi Al-Yawm TV translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute TV Monitor Project.

Women took to the streets of Beirut wearing blood-stained wedding dresses with signs that said "A white dress does not cover up rape. Undress 522," referring to the number of the penal article in question. The demonstration was an act by the Beirut-based Resource Center for Gender Equality (ABAAD) association on December 6. The rally prompted the parliamentary Committee for Administration and Justice to announce they would abolish the article on December 7.

The details of this change are due to be deliberated on Wednesday before being referred to the Lebanese parliament for ratification.

"We have come to say: don't marry us off to our rapist," said one protestor. "I think that he should be executed or sentenced to life in solitary confinement. The important thing is that he be placed on trial. Somebody hurts us, causes us psychological damage, and makes us ill. We can no longer eat, drink, or think. All we do is wonder: What did we do to deserve this? Is it because we are weak? We are not weak. We are strong."

A similar legal measure came under fire in Turkey recently. Turkey's ruling party withdrew a proposed bill allowing men accused of sexual abuse to avoid sentence, but a public uproar persisted, with opposition parties and civil society groups calling for it to be canceled entirely.

The proposal would have allowed sentencing to be indefinitely postponed in cases of sexual abuse committed "without force, threat or deception" if the perpetrator married the victim.

The ruling AK Party's bill drew condemnation from many, who said it would provide a legal basis for sexual abuse under the pretext of under-age marriages.

"Sexual abuse is a crime and there is no consent in it. This is what the AK Party fails to understand," Ozgur Ozel, a senior lawmaker with the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) told a press conference. "Seeking the consent of a child is something that universal law does not provide for."

The government said the bill would remedy the situation of men who were sent to jail after they married girls under the age of 18, in religious ceremonies and with the consent of their family. It rejected suggestions that the plan amounted to an "amnesty for rape."

Civil marriage under the age of 18 is illegal in Turkey, but marriage between men and underage girls in religious ceremonies is not uncommon, particularly in rural areas. Some argued that such marriages were not abusive and the couples were simply unaware of the civil law.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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