BEIRUT: The Lebanese Forces will soon meet with a delegation from Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya to find a mutually acceptable solution to disputes over the domestic violence bill, MP Strida Geagea told The Daily Star in an interview Friday.
“We recognize that Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya’s main point of reference is Islam and the holy Quran,” Geagea said, adding that the LF was unwilling to compromise on any aspect of the bill.
The bill, drawn up by women’s rights activists and lawyers to protect women from domestic violence, has been in parliamentary committee stage since 2010, stalled on several key issues. Committee amendments have removed the definition and outlawing of marital rape, and refocused the bill to include men and children.
Geagea said the LF was unwilling to accept either change.
“The reality is that women are the most abused,” she said. “The second issue is marital rape, and some people are trying not to address this topic directly and we consider this to be out of the question.
“We are asking that the draft law in its original form be approved.”
The original draft of the bill, endorsed by the Cabinet in April 2010, mandates the appointment of public prosecutors in every governorate to receive complaints of domestic violence cases, and the establishment of a special unit within the Internal Security Forces to deal with such cases.
A study released last year by women’s rights group KAFA (Enough Violence and Discrimination), which was instrumental in the drafting of the bill, showed that domestic violence accounts for around half of all cases of physical abuse in Lebanon. Around one woman dies each month as a result of family violence, according to the group’s analysis of crime reports.
Beirut MP Imad Hout, Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya’s representative on the committee, has repeatedly said there is no such thing as rape between a husband and wife.
Geagea declined to say whether she believed Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya might approve the law as the LF wanted it, but said she had received some positive feedback on the issue. She added that an LF delegation met Thursday with the Pakistani ambassador to discuss Pakistan’s recent law criminalizing domestic violence, to compare experiences with the Muslim-majority country.
“We asked her for some clauses in the law so we can look at it and perhaps use it as a source of ideas,” Geagea said. “We’re trying to clarify that the bill does not contradict religious affairs.”
However, Geagea also admitted that the LF’s threat last month to remove its MP, Shant Janjinian, from the committee if the amendments they object to are not reversed, may not be enough to change the current direction of the bill.
“Withdrawing our MP would be a moral stand,” she said. “Maybe it won’t be effective to pass the law the way we want it. We want it recorded in history that we oppose what is happening now.”
Geagea also spoke about the proposed law to allow Lebanese women to pass on citizenship to their children, saying she supports the law but with certain restrictions.
“I support the implementation of some measures to limit marriage for the purpose of gaining citizenship, like in the United States when a lot of men marry American women merely to gain citizenship,” she said. In previous interviews Geagea has voiced concern that Palestinian men may marry Lebanese women solely for the purpose of receiving citizenship if the law is applied to all Lebanese women.
“Let’s say a Lebanese woman marries any man, not necessarily a Palestinian, some restrictions should be applied; for example, he needs to be a resident of Lebanon for at least 10 years,” she told The Daily Star.
“But when it comes to granting their children citizenship, this should be passed immediately without any restriction,” she added.
Geagea, a Bsharri MP since 2005, said she has yet to decide to run in next year’s Parliamentary elections, and dismissed talk that a video she recently made for MTV, in which she condemned violence against women, was an early campaign move.
“They, in Bsharri, might see the video as me standing with women against men, especially with the presence of the Middle Eastern mindset that exists there. This wouldn’t help me in the elections.”