Violence against women and children is a global problem, but in Lebanon it must be tackled in a culturally specific way.
The unspeakably horrific case Sunday of a 5-year-old Syrian refugee raped and murdered, his body left in a dumpster, is just the latest example of such acts and follows the murders of several women this year, all at the hands of partners or men close to them. These are just the cases we hear about, the women courageous enough to come forward. Many more incidents happen behind closed doors.
All these acts are about power and the opportunity to control these women and children. They stem from the patriarchal structure of society, which in turn is influenced by religious and cultural norms.
A widespread campaign is needed that addresses the roots of this problem, one which uses education to open up people’s minds to an existence where violence against women and children is not natural, or inevitable, but an aberration that will be severely punished.
For although Lebanon has signed all the relevant international conventions on such acts of barbaric violence, this has changed little on the ground. And when a recent law against sexual violence was passed, it was virtually meaningless, having been stripped of much of its content after its draft form was sent to the country’s various religious bodies for editing. Marital rape, apparently, does not exist.
From the judiciary to the education system, the country needs to overhaul its approach to sexual violence and violence against women and children, so that victims can feel comfortable enough to come forward and so that potential perpetrators learn another way.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 10, 2014, on page 7.