BEIRUT: On the occasion of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence 2018, ABAAD, in partnership with the Office of the Minister of State For Women Affairs and the National Commission for Lebanese Women, and with the financial support of the Dutch Embassy in Lebanon, the British Embassy in Lebanon, the Norwegian People Aid, and other partners, launched the “Shame On Who?” nationwide campaign.
Abaad is a non-profit, non-politically affiliated, non-religious civil association founded in June 2011 aiming to promote sustainable social and economic development in the MENA region through equality, protection, and empowerment of marginalized groups, especially women.
During the last couple of days, citizens received a message on their phones saying “Min El Felten” which translates to “shame on who?” Social media platforms were ignited with people posting screenshots of the messages and wondering what the purpose behind them was.
“I thought I was being pranked by one of my friends,“ said Sandy Abou Haidar.
However, the message was a hint of Abaad’s new campaign against rape in Lebanon.
"The aim of this campaign is to press for tougher sanctions, to accelerate trials against rapists in cases of sexual violence and rape in particular, and to change social perceptions that stigmatize and shame female rape victims. It also aims to create a supportive public opinion that condemns the act of rape as a crime punishable by a deterrent punishment,’’ said Ghida Anani, Founder & Director of ABAAD.
“We urge women rape victims to exercise their rights, by raising their voices and reporting the rapists, seeking retribution and bringing them to justice,’’ she added.
This campaign is part of a larger effort by ABAAD to address the issue of rape in Lebanon, which began in 2016 with the ‘’White Dress Doesn’t Cover Rape- #Abolish_522’’ from Lebanese Penal Code. The objective of the latter was to reform the cultural system which exempted rapists in case they married their victim. The campaign led to the repeal of Article 522 from the Lebanese Penal Code.
This was followed by the ‘’Life for Life’’ campaign in 2017 that focused more on the issue of incest/family rape. Today, the “Shame On Who?” campaign calls for the prosecution of all rapists and promotes a public opinion that supports the victim instead of judging her.
Abaad conducted a social experiment, in more than one area in Lebanon, to observe the behaviors and reactions of people who were present during the experiment. These behaviors reflected the negative perception and attitudes of society toward rape victims. The experiment showed that a large number of people are negligent and unaware of how to interact with a rape victim, choosing instead to accuse, blame and shame her.
Laurence Daou noted her reaction after watching the video showcasing the experiment posted by Abaad on their Facebook page.
“The video shows the harsh reality of our society that blames innocent victims and silences them to avoid scandals. People who do so are uneducated and this campaign is essential to raise awareness and enlighten them,” she said.
According to Abaad, figures indicate that one out of four women in Lebanon are sexually harassed and 49 percent of those cases are perpetrated by the victims’ close relatives or acquaintances. Nevertheless, around 13 women per month report sexual assault in Lebanon (according to the statistics of the General Directorate of Internal Security Forces), which is equivalent to the average of only three women per week.
A national survey conducted by ABAAD in 2017 showed that 80 percent of women in Lebanon believe that social and cultural beliefs justify sexual assault and violence against women and girls.
“I’m glad this campaign is encouraging victims not to be afraid and to speak. They did nothing wrong and they should be able to tell their story without being ashamed,” said Benitta Matar.
Through this campaign, Abaad calls on citizens to unite and put pressure on government officials by demanding the increase of punishment for perpetrators of rape and sexual violence, and to direct the blame on the perpetrator rather than the survivor.
“Prosecute the rapist, do not blame the victim!”
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