Kafa fighting to protect women from rape and abuse in Lebanon

For 25 years Sahar has been living in fear.

From the beginning of her relationship with her husband, she knew something was very wrong. He was intensely jealous, self-centred and would lash out at her for no apparent reason. He and her family refused to let her end the relationship, however. She felt trapped and the emotional and physical abuse only got worse.

But it was the years of sexual violence – being routinely raped by her own husband – that has left her feeling “destroyed”, says the mother of two, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.

“The sexual abuse hurts me the most. I don’t love him. I hate him. I feel every time he is killing me,” she says. “This act is killing my humanity … He’s very aggressive and if I tell him he is hurting me he doesn’t care. If I push him a bit, he just increases the force.”

Sahar, who is in her 50s, says the years of severe abuse have left her all but broken.

“I see him as an animal,” she says.

But a coalition of Lebanese women’s groups is working to provide women like Sahar with greater protection against domestic violence.

Kafa – Arabic for “enough” – is among the organisations pushing for tough legislation to protect women from family violence, including the criminalisation of spousal rape.

Marital, or spousal, rape is non-consensual sex when the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse. It is illegal in more than 100 countries, but current Lebanese rape laws – just as in many other Arab states, including the UAE – do not apply to marital relationships.

“Rape is rape regardless of who commits it,” said Maya Ammar, Kafa’s media officer. “The penal law in Lebanon does not protect women from being raped by their husbands.”

The coalition began drafting the new law in 2007 in a bid to overhaul the way domestic violence is handled. Their draft bill called for special units to investigate cases of family violence, women to have the right to take out restraining orders against abusive family members and stipulated that medical professionals should be required to report what they believe was domestic violence. The bill was approved by the Lebanese cabinet in 2010, before moving to a parliamentary committee.

However, campaigners are now concerned about the extent to which the bill’s language has been diluted by the eight-member committee – seven men and one woman – reviewing the legislation.

A series of leaks from the committee and media reports have indicated that key provisions, including language that would criminalise marital rape, have been amended or removed.

Last December, one of the committee members, Imad Al Hout, told the Daily Star newspaper that “there’s nothing called rape between a husband and a wife. It’s called forcing someone violently to have intercourse”.

But it is not just the removal of key provisions in the draft that have supporters concerned. An article that would give precedence to religious courts in domestic violence cases was added by the cabinet before it even reached the committee – a move Ms Ammar described as the “one of most dangerous” changes to the draft.

Currently, family law falls under the jurisdiction of Lebanon’s 15 religious courts, which traditionally favour reconciliation and maintaining the family unit. Supporters of the initial legislation wanted the cases to be tried in civil court.

While the draft is still called the Law to Protect Women from Family Violence, Kafa said it has been extended to include men, children and the elderly. The group believes that the law’s strength had been in its specific provisions for the protection for women.

“You can make changes and amendments, but you cannot make horrendous amendments to the law that will distort it and also amendments that do not respect basic human rights,” said Ms Ammar.

Resistance to the initial version has come from conservative and religious groups, amid accusations that the law would undermine families. Pressure has been exerted from religious authorities including Lebanon’s highest Sunni body, Dar Al Fatwa, and the Shiite Higher Council.

The committee, which has been reviewing the bill since April last year, is now expected to issue its final draft within the next few weeks, and then put it to a parliamentary vote.

As the draft has appeared to falter, campaigners have tried to refocus attention on violence against women, particularly marital rape.

A researcher at the American University of Beirut, Jinan Usta, found in her studies that at least one third of Lebanese women had experienced some form of gender-based violence.

About 350 women seek help from Kafa each year. Most are victims of domestic violence. The organisation also found that between May 2010 and May 2011, 12 women were killed by their husbands in Lebanon.

The women’s groups involved in the campaign are determined to keep up the pressure. At a demonstration last Saturday in Beirut, a few dozen people, some dressed in black and carrying a coffin, marched in a mock funeral for a woman killed by her husband.

“It’s to make the parliament feel guilty about the death of women from family violence,” Ms Ammar said.

The National

  • ba

     I have to take my wife out sometimes or buy her a gift to get a BJ so is that considered prostitution?

    • 5thDrawer

      Nope. You OWE her …. for simply picking you as a ‘gene donor’.  🙂

    • JessicaHabib

      Marc, You are a fu@@@@@@@@ing weirdo! And no legally its not prostitution.

      • ba

        Thanks for using my pic on your profile and my real name. It makes me soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

        Happy! Please though dont DO IT AGAIN!!!!! As you can see according to this article its a mans world and as a women you must do as I say!!!! AND IF YOU DONT YA JESSICA WALA I WILL CRY TILL THE DAY I DIE.

        • Hannibal

          hahahahahahahaha you got caught with your pants down.

        • Hannibal

          hahahahahahahaha you got caught with your pants down.

        • 5thDrawer

          Is that now ‘Boy Aware’ instead of Bad Ass’?  😉

      • ba

         You got that from my facebook didnt you? Well if you were with me now I would marry you then I would rape you and have 2 children with you and divorce you once you expire at 50 years old.

        • JessicaHabib

           as long as you buy me gifts and let me drive your beautiful Mercedes AMG 🙂

        • ba

          My God women have some dam shame! Im sure we can come to an agreement though….. You are so dam bad Im starting to hate you in a very loving way Jessica. Seriously youre f-ing dangerous. No more talking on this website. Im on Facebook or just text me.

        • JessicaHabib

           why divorce me though? Ok fb it is.

        • JessicaHabib

           why divorce me though? Ok fb it is.

    • loveandonlylove

      Given how highly you think of your wife it might turn out to be cheaper for you to seek the help of a prostitute when you need a bj.

      • 5thDrawer

        Wow love … this is progressive thinking … good to know you feel God forgives them too. 🙂

  •  I have to take my wife out sometimes or buy her a gift to get a BJ so is that considered prostitution?

    • 5thDrawer

      Nope. You OWE her …. for simply picking you as a ‘gene donor’.  🙂

    • JessicaHabib

      Marc, You are a fu@@@@@@@@ing weirdo! And no legally its not prostitution.

      • Thanks for using my pic on your profile and my real name. It makes me soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

        Happy! Please though dont DO IT AGAIN!!!!! As you can see according to this article its a mans world and as a women you must do as I say!!!! AND IF YOU DONT YA JESSICA WALA I WILL CRY TILL THE DAY I DIE.

        • hahahahahahahaha you got caught with your pants down.

        • 5thDrawer

          Is that now ‘Boy Aware’ instead of Bad Ass’?  😉

      •  You got that from my facebook didnt you? Well if you were with me now I would marry you then I would rape you and have 2 children with you and divorce you once you expire at 50 years old.

        • JessicaHabib

           as long as you buy me gifts and let me drive your beautiful Mercedes AMG 🙂

        • My God women have some dam shame! Im sure we can come to an agreement though….. You are so dam bad Im starting to hate you in a very loving way Jessica. Seriously youre f-ing dangerous. No more talking on this website. Im on Facebook or just text me.

        • JessicaHabib

           why divorce me though? Ok fb it is.

    • loveandonlylove

      Given how highly you think of your wife it might turn out to be cheaper for you to seek the help of a prostitute when you need a bj.

      • 5thDrawer

        Wow love … this is progressive thinking … good to know you feel God forgives them too. 🙂

  • loveandonlylove

    This is very disturbing. I understand that part of the problem seem to be religious: The law should be flexible according to the religious or ethnic group the person belongs to: For example sake, in case a lady feels she can’t seek protection because of the clerical attitude of her co-religionnist marital rape, she should have the right to change to a religion that would give her her rights.God is merciful AND forgiving!

    • 5thDrawer

      Pardon me love … the whole idea is to get it out of the hands of the religious-law zone and into something realistic. And we know it often takes two to tango, and that sometimes religiously-bent advice can help, but what you have here is forced ‘conciliation’ upon the woman ONLY, and no consideration for her mental OR physical well-being under the marriage contract. Or even her children until they are old enough to escape.
      Good to know you think God will forgive however … the ‘heads’ don’t seem to want to. The ‘law’ shouldn’t be the one needing to decide forgiveness either.

      • loveandonlylove

        I would love to see religion separated from state in Lebanon and everywhere else. Except in a very few cases, I have a very low opinion of so called “men of god” but you have to be pragmatic about those things. 
        Should people turn away from a religion that fails to give them their basic rights it might encourage the clergy of such religion to take a softer approach and as they will start losing their feminine audience the rape-law might become a national law.
        Any religion will change its attitude once women change faith. They need them to procreate in order for them to get new customers!

        • 5thDrawer

          Errr … love … have you heard what some of those religions think should be done to someone who switches? Let alone a female ??
          (answer for question below)
          Yes love … in a relatively small way. My Grandmother married a man she loved – as he did her. They were not of the same ‘sect’ of their religion. They were ostracized from the small town (small-town-thinkers) and her own sister didn’t talk to her for 19 years. They moved and went to a larger more ‘cosmopolitan’ place. Didn’t join any particular ‘church’ group again. But they had my mother as one of their children, which means I’m here to write to you. 🙂 And even better, they allowed their children to choose their own path in the religious sense. My mother tried several with various young friends, and enjoyed most of the experiences but didn’t stick with one until she met my dad and settled into one with him – as his seemed amicable to her. My parents were ‘godly people’ in themselves and tried to lead us … but they didn’t force compliance with threats of damnation.
          And I guess you could say I was lucky that small town didn’t believe in killing my grandmother for the great ‘sin’ of falling in love with a good man … although they didn’t like it. But then, I would never have known that truth, would I?

          • loveandonlylove

            Are you talking from experience?

        • 5thDrawer

          An answer below for ‘love’.

        • 5thDrawer

          An answer below for ‘love’.

  • loveandonlylove

    This is very disturbing. I understand that part of the problem seem to be religious: The law should be flexible according to the religious or ethnic group the person belongs to: For example sake, in case a lady feels she can’t seek protection because of the clerical attitude of her co-religionnist marital rape, she should have the right to change to a religion that would give her her rights.God is merciful AND forgiving!

    • 5thDrawer

      Pardon me love … the whole idea is to get it out of the hands of the religious-law zone and into something realistic. And we know it often takes two to tango, and that sometimes religiously-bent advice can help, but what you have here is forced ‘conciliation’ upon the woman ONLY, and no consideration for her mental OR physical well-being under the marriage contract. Or even her children until they are old enough to escape.
      Good to know you think God will forgive however … the ‘heads’ don’t seem to want to. The ‘law’ shouldn’t be the one needing to decide forgiveness either.

      • loveandonlylove

        I would love to see religion separated from state in Lebanon and everywhere else. Except in a very few cases, I have a very low opinion of so called “men of god” but you have to be pragmatic about those things. 
        Should people turn away from a religion that fails to give them their basic rights it might encourage the clergy of such religion to take a softer approach and as they will start losing their feminine audience the rape-law might become a national law.
        Any religion will change its attitude once women change faith. They need them to procreate in order for them to get new customers!

        • 5thDrawer

          Errr … love … have you heard what some of those religions think should be done to someone who switches? Let alone a female ??

          • loveandonlylove

            Are you talking from experience?

        • 5thDrawer

          An answer below for ‘love’.