Nearly four years after it was first submitted to Parliament, the domestic violence law was finally passed Tuesday, but the amendments made to it since 2010 do a great disservice to the women of this country.
But this is not a women’s issue alone, and must not be seen as such if there is to be any hope of the law becoming firmer. For domestic violence is society’s problem, not just a problem for women, though they suffer the most from it, as the string of recent murders of Lebanese women at the hands of their husbands is testament to.
Though it has prided itself for decades on being among the most liberal countries in the region, Lebanon is in fact hanging on to some quasi-medieval trends. This new law, a dangerous compromise that sought to placate both women’s rights activists and the religious authorities, basically legalizes marital rape. But while the battle has been lost, the war is not over, and pressure on politicians must continue to be applied by the rest of the population.
The demands of the people must be heeded above the concerns of the clergy, which is apparently so concerned about losing its grip over the lives of women that it ensured any law passed would be a tame one.
While Tuesday’s decision was a step in the right direction, it is clear that, when it comes to the individual in Lebanese society, her or his rights are still being neglected in favor of the desires of the various religious authorities in the country. Politicians must learn that people will continue to demand their rights, and that conciliatory half-measures will not satisfy.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 02, 2014, on page 7.