Lebanese demand civil marriage on home soil

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Lebanese demonstrators carry placards during a gathering against the ongoing ban on civil unions outside the Ministry of Interior in the capital Beirut on February 23, 2019. (AFP)
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Lebanese demonstrators carry placards during a gathering against the ongoing ban on civil unions outside the Ministry of Interior in the capital Beirut on February 23, 2019. Arabic writing on placard reads:"I want civil marriage in Lebanon because I have a phobia of flying." (AFP)
Updated 23 February 2019

Lebanese demand civil marriage on home soil

BEIRUT: Dozens of protesters rallied in the Lebanese capital Beirut on Saturday, calling on the government to recognise civil marriages carried out on home soil.
The demonstrators gathered in front of Lebanon's interior ministry, days after recently-appointed Interior Minister Raya al-Hasan said she is willing to engage in "serious and profound dialogue" over the issue.
The minister's comments prompted a backlash from religious bodies, including the highest Sunni authority in Lebanon, and stirred debate on social media.
Lebanon has 15 separate personal status laws for its recognised religions but no civil code covering issues such as marriage.
Many Lebanese couples travel to neighbouring Cyprus to tie the knot in a civil ceremony, because Lebanese authorities recognise such unions only if they have been registered abroad.
Hasan, the first female interior minister in Lebanon and the Arab world, touched on the issue of civil unions in an interview with Euronews last week.
She said she would "personally endorse" attempts to establish a framework to govern civil marriages in Lebanon.
"I will try to open the door for serious and profound dialogue on this issue with all religious authorities and others, with the support of Prime Minister Saad Hariri," she said.
Dar al-Fatwa, the highest Sunni authority in Lebanon, issued a response the day after Hasan's interview was published, saying it "categorically rejects" civil unions conducted on Lebanese soil.
Such unions "violate the provisions of Islamic law" and "contravene the provisions of the Lebanese constitution" regarding the authority of religious courts over personal status issues, it said.
The highest Shiite authority in the country also expressed opposition.
"The Lebanese constitution recognises that every sect has its own personal status laws," deputy head of the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council said Friday.
"We strongly oppose civil marriage because it violates the constitution," he said.
The head of Lebanon's Maronite church, Beshara Rai, however, said he was "not against civil unions" conducted on Lebanese territory.
In 2013, the interior ministry took the unprecedented step of registering a civil marriage conducted in Lebanon.
However, only a handful of civil marriages have been recognised since the landmark decision, campaigner Lucien Bourjeily told AFP on Saturday.
Former president Elias Hrawi in 1998 proposed a civil marriage law, which gained approval from the cabinet only to be halted amid widespread opposition from the country's religious authorities.


Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

Updated 10 December 2019

Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

  • The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new PM unraveled
  • Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29

BEIRUT/PARIS: Lebanon does not expect new aid pledges at conference which France is hosting on Wednesday to press for the quick formation of a new government that can tackle an acute financial crisis.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Lebanon to create a new government swiftly or risk the crisis worsening and threatening the country’s stability.
The economic crisis is the worst since the 1975-90 civil war: a liquidity crunch has led banks to enforce capital controls and the Lebanese pound to slump by one third.
Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29, prompted by protests against the ruling elite, with no agreement on a new government.
Nadim Munla, senior adviser to Hariri, who is running the government as caretaker, told Reuters the Paris meeting would probably signal a readiness to offer support once a government is formed that commits to reforms.
“They will recognize that there is a short-term problem and that if and when a government (is formed) that basically responds to the aspirations of people, most probably the international community will be ready to step in and provide support to Lebanon, or additional support,” he said.
“It is not a pledging conference.”
Lebanon won pledges of over $11 billion at a conference last year conditional on reforms that it has failed to implement. The economic crisis is rooted in years of corruption and waste that have generated one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new prime minister unraveled.
Hariri is now seen as the only candidate for the post.
He has said he would only lead a cabinet of specialist ministers, believing this is the way to address the economic crisis, attract aid, and satisfy protesters who have been in the streets since Oct. 17 seeking the removal of a political class blamed for corruption and misrule.
But Hezbollah and its allies including President Michel Aoun say the government must include politicians.
“Let’s see the coming few days and if there will be an agreement among the political parties on a formation ... otherwise we might take longer,” Munla said. Hariri would be willing to have politicians in cabinet but they should not be “the regular known faces of previous governments.”