BEIRUT: Tens gathered today in front of the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council to protest against the currently applicable custody law.
In light of the video that went viral of Lina Jaber grieving her daughter’s death after she was denied the right to see her for years and forbidden from attending her funeral, demonstrators chanted “tell me, do you hear her mother’s screams?”
The demonstration was organized by the Protecting Lebanese Women organization and The National Campaign to Raise the Age of Custody within the Shiite Community.
Family law in Lebanon falls completely under the ruling of religious courts thus, each sect dictates its own rules concerning marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody. For Shiites, fathers automatically gain full custody of boys aged 2 years old. Mothers can keep their daughters until they reach 7 years old.
The campaign calls for raising the maternal custody to seven for boys and nine for girls, as well as shared custody afterwards, while calling on judges to leave the kids with the mother longer when it’s in the best interest of the children.
Men and women alike chanted that corruption has infiltrated itself into the turbans of religious leaders who refuse to listen to the demands of the mothers that have been campaigning for years for more just rulings.
In October 2019, a car accident killed the young activist Nadine Jouni that had for years organized campaigns and protests calling for reforms of the custody law, after her ex-husband gained full custody of her only son Karam.
Organizers played a recording of Jouni’s words one year ago from a demonstration in front of the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council.
“Our children are not orphans, and will not be orphaned as long as we are alive. It is no longer acceptable for our children to live without mothers,,” said Jouni.
Zeina Ibrahim, one of the organizers of the protest and an active member in the Protecting Lebanese Women organization told Annahar that “this is the first protest without Nadine, and being without her here hurts, but we will continue in her path,” she vowed.
There is much controversy around the call for raising the age of custody, even within the Shiite sect itself.
Prominent Shiite cleric, Ahmad Taleb, released a statement calling for reforms in the religious courts, noting that there is more than one opinion on the custody issue in Shiite jurisprudence.
He supports raising the age of custody and believes that immediate reforms should be made within the court.
“A lot of women are forced to stay with their husbands for fear of losing their children. This is something I see on a daily basis and something that I’ve lived through in my childhood,” said Wared Aboud, one of the protesters. “My mother was always afraid of asking for a divorce because she did not want to lose me, which is why I believe there should be laws that protect women in situations like this."
Organizers splashed red paint across the council's fence, symbolizing the blood of Jouni and other mothers who “died a thousand deaths each day waiting for reforms from the council.”
Maya Hammoud told Annahar that she had to bribe her ex-husband with a big amount of money to give her full custody of her children.
“How is this fair?” she asked.
Meanwhile others don’t have the privilege of bribing their previous spouses to gain custody.
“My four kids live with their dad and grandmother, and I only get to see them on Saturdays,” stated Dima Ahmad between tears.
Welcome to “NAYA,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations. NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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