A campaign poster by Abaad highlighting the negative effects Article 522 has on Lebanese women. Image Credit: Courtesy: Twitter

Beirut: Article 522 of the Lebanese Penal Code shields rapists from prosecution on the condition that they marry their victim, a phenomenon that is still practised in the country, especially among conservative families whose chief aim is to preserve the family’s so-called “honour.”

Activists say that such ‘protection’ is, more often than not, a second trauma for victims — something that parliament’s Administration and Justice Committee met to discuss a few days ago.

Deputy Élie Keyrouz, a Lebanese Forces MP, proposed to abolish the article entirely, but parliament moved to postpone the debate on the proposal until next Wednesday.

The Lebanese Forces’ Department of Women’s Affairs not only called to abolish the article but also to prosecute the rapists — insisting that 522 stands as an insult to “women and violates their dignity and the safety of the family and stability.”

The hashtag #Undress522 has also been launched to trigger online discussion and awareness on the matter.

It teamed up with local NGO, ABAAD, which made visual inroads as it displayed in front of parliament building at Nijmeh Square a woman dressed in a white wedding dress made with bandages, to say that this was not acceptable.

The idea for the visual was taken from a powerful video made by Danielle Rizkallah that shows how a woman is beaten and raped before her bruises are covered with bandages that resemble a white dress.

Model Galina Yordanova played the role and stood outside parliament to sensitise lawmakers to the plight under the slogan “A White Dress Doesn’t Cover the Rape”.

ABAAD recently issued a comprehensive 271-page study in Arabic by Azza Charara Baydoun, “Domestic Violence” which dotted the i’s and crossed every imaginable t in the ultraconservative Lebanese society that skirts with liberalism in public, but insists on ancient norms in private.

The heavily researched and annotated book confirms that 4 per cent of Lebanese women are subjected to verbal abuses, 8 per cent to physical assaults, 13 per cent to financial constraints, 17 per cent to rape, and a whopping 41 per cent are routinely subjected to legal violence since the current law protects the man instead of his victim.

According to an ABAAD commissioned survey, “60 per cent of the Lebanese population is in favour of repealing Article 522 with 84 per cent considering that it protects the rapist from prosecution and punishment.”

Another 73 per cent consider that the Article increases pressure on women to marry their rapists with the same number considering that the Article reflects society’s preference for preserving a family’s ‘honour’, rather than seeking justice for a woman’s suffering.