Lebanon activists ramp up pressure on reviled rape law

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A woman walks past a veiled woman sitting on a bench near an installation of wedding dresses by Lebanese artist Mireille Honein and Abaad NGO at Beirut’s Corniche, denouncing the article 522 of Lebanon’s penal code allowing rapists who marry their victims to go free. (AFP/PATRICK BAZ/MIREILLE HONEIN)
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A proposal to scrap the article was introduced last year and approved by a parliamentary committee in February, but it must now be voted on by the full legislative body.(AFP/PATRICK BAZ/MIREILLE HONEIN)
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A proposal to scrap the article was introduced last year and approved by a parliamentary committee in February, but it must now be voted on by the full legislative body.(AFP/PATRICK BAZ/MIREILLE HONEIN)
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A proposal to scrap the article was introduced last year and approved by a parliamentary committee in February, but it must now be voted on by the full legislative body.(AFP/PATRICK BAZ/MIREILLE HONEIN)
Updated 23 April 2017
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Lebanon activists ramp up pressure on reviled rape law

BEIRUT: Lebanese activists ramped up their campaign to scrap a controversial law allowing rapists who marry their victims to go free, with a dramatic installation on Saturday along Beirut’s sunny seaside.
A proposal to scrap Article 522 of the penal code — which deals with rape, assault, kidnapping and forced marriage — was introduced last year and approved by a parliamentary committee in February.
It will go before parliament on May 15 and activists hope that MPs will vote to eliminate it.
On Saturday they urged Lebanese citizens to sign a campaign to ramp up the pressure on legislators at an open-air exhibit.
Thirty-one wedding dresses made of white lace and wrapping paper hung limply from makeshift nooses between four palm trees along the Lebanese capital’s corniche.
“There are 31 days in a month and every single day, a woman may be raped and forced to marry her rapist,” said Alia Awada, advocacy manager at Lebanese non-government organization ABAAD.
“We are trying as much as we can to shed light on this issue and tell parliament that the time has come for them to vote on canceling Article 522.”
The reviled article, which also deals with the rape of minors, allows offenders to escape punishment by wedding their victims.
“If a valid marriage contract exists between the perpetrator of one of these crimes... and the abused, the prosecution is suspended,” it reads.
“If a verdict has been issued, the implementation is suspended.”
Awada said: “We called on all parliamentarians and decision-makers in the Lebanese state with this message: every ‘yes’ from you is a ‘no’ to a rapist.”
Standing amid the fluttering wedding dresses, Minister for Women’s Affairs Jean Oghassabian described the article as being “from the stone age.”
“Its turn has come, it’s the second item on the agenda” at an upcoming legislative session on May 15, Oghassabian, who is also an MP, told AFP.
Lebanese artist Mireille Honein, who designed the exhibition in Paris and brought it to her homeland this week, said she made the dresses out of white paper “to highlight the ephemeral nature of marriage and of laws.”
“And I hung them up, because this type of law simply robs women of their essence, leaves them without an identity and suspends them in a life that does not suit them and is shameful for those imposing it on them,” Honein told AFP.
As passersby paused to look at the ghostly installation, volunteers from ABAAD invited them to sign a petition demanding parliament prioritize the article’s elimination.
Silver-haired Rafiq Ajouri, who hails from a southern Lebanese village, was persuaded to sign on while on his morning stroll along the corniche.
“If I were to get raped, why wouldn’t I get my rights? I’d want people to stand beside me,” he said.
But the elderly man, who has five sons and three daughters, hesitated when an ABAAD volunteer said women should be allowed the same liberties as men.
“They can have their freedoms, but within limits. Why? Because they’re girls.”


Lions, other animals to be saved from Gaza zoo: welfare group

Updated 10 min 52 sec ago
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Lions, other animals to be saved from Gaza zoo: welfare group

  • The animals would be taken out of a zoo in the Palestinian enclave and relocated to sanctuaries in Jordan next week
  • Rafah Zoo in southern Gaza confirmed the agreement, saying they weren’t receiving any funds for the animals

GAZA CITY: Forty animals including five lions are to be rescued from squalid conditions in the Gaza Strip, an animal welfare group said Wednesday.
The animals would be taken out of a zoo in the Palestinian enclave and relocated to sanctuaries in Jordan next week, the Four Paws organization said.
Among the other animals to be taken out are a hyena, monkeys, wolves and porcupines, the organization said in a statement.
Rafah Zoo in southern Gaza confirmed the agreement, saying they weren’t receiving any funds for the animals and couldn’t provide proper care for them in the strip.
The zoo hit the headlines last month when the cash-strapped owner revealed he had declawed one of the lions there, so that customers could pay to play with her.
The organization condemned the declawing, with almost 150,000 people signing a petition against the treatment.
The animals would be treated and sedated, before being taken through Israel into Jordan, Four Paws said.
“For far too long, the animals of Rafah Zoo have had to live under unimaginably dreadful conditions,” said Four Paws veterinarian Amir Khalil.
“We are happy to finally put an end to this horror,” he said in the statement.
The animal welfare group has previously evacuated two other zoos in Gaza, where desperate poverty often leaves owners unable to assure adequate conditions.
Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, measures it says are necessary to isolate the enclave’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
In 2016, Four Paws helped facilitate the transfer of the sole tiger in the Gaza Strip, eventually relocating it to South Africa.
The organization in 2017 rescued a lion and a bear from a zoo in Mosul in northern Iraq, a former stronghold of the Daesh group.