BEIRUT: The parliamentary subcommittee studying the draft law against domestic violence submitted their version to the parliamentary joint committee Thursday, after a review period fraught with vocal criticism from both activists and politicians.
Key amendments to the original draft, which was submitted to the Cabinet by activists and lawyers in 2010, include the definition of marital rape, as well as the renaming of the bill from “Protecting women from family violence,” to one that is targeted toward protecting the whole family.
Speaking to The Daily Star, MP Ghassan Moukheiber, a member of the subcommittee, said the amendments improved the draft law’s protection of women. “The draft bill as we worded it is much better.
“The law has been rewritten to send a very strong message that violence against women and within the family is totally unacceptable.”
The subcommittee, which met 39 times between May 2011 and July 2012, has drawn controversy over the course of its work, with both activists and members of the committee voicing their objections to leaked amendments.
Two members of the subcommittee, Lebanese Forces MP Shant Jinjanian and Change and Reform bloc MP Nabil Nicolas resigned from the subcommittee within a week of each other in June in protest over what they said went against the original intentions of the bill.
Moukheiber defended the subcommittee’s treatment of the marital rape clause. The current draft presumes consent between a married couple, while outlawing and penalizing threatening or violent behavior.
The presumption of consent between married couples, he said, was the norm globally. “But this right cannot be taken by force or by threat. And this is what the law states.”
Presumption of consent is a contentious legal issue across the world, and the notion has disappeared from many countries since the 1980s. However, Moukheiber also said that “irrespective of what other countries do, this is an appropriate law [for Lebanon].”
The committee also defended its treatment of the personal status laws, stating in a report it issued over its amendments Thursday that the “purely criminal” law was outside the prerogatives of the religious courts.
Moukheiber also pointed to several aspects that the subcommittee amended which he said improved upon the original draft.
In particular, he highlighted the inclusion within the bill of the establishment of a fund to assist victims of violence with shelter and rehabilitation, as well as violence prevention. The previous draft mandated a different bill to establish such a fund.
KAFA, the women’s rights NGO that was instrumental in drafting the original version of the law, said it would not be commenting on the law until the final version was released. – With additional reporting by Wassim Mroueh