BEIRUT: On the weekend following Mother’s Day, KAFA set up a demonstration in front of the Lebanese Parliament to shed light on domestic violence against women and child marriage. The protest also explored how the Lebanese personal status law discriminates against women from all the different religious sects.
“We intended to schedule this demonstration close to Mother’s Day to highlight the struggles of a lot of Lebanese mothers,” said Rayan Majed, website manager at KAFA. “No matter how successful a Lebanese woman is in her career, as a mother or a person, she still faces many challenges when it comes to personal status laws,” Majed told Annahar.
In Lebanon, there isn't a united civil law that protects women against domestic violence nor a law that ensures custody and divorce rights.
If a Lebanese woman decides to marry a person from another religion, she automatically loses her right to custody in case of a divorce. Custody rights are also revoked if a divorced woman decides to marry again.
The main goal of the demonstration was to listen to testimonies of abused women. Some women decided to record their stories and have them played in Nejmeh Square. Others decided to be there personally and to share their stories of what they went through when they sought protection from religious courts.
“In my marriage, I faced verbal and physical violence from my husband,” said one of the brave women who were giving their testimonies. She continued telling her story of how leaving meant leaving her son behind while managing to take her disabled daughter with her.
“After a year and half of trying to get a divorce and trying to see my son the verdict fell in my favor,” she said. “But, the verdict, which is issued by the Religious Supreme Courts, was then transferred to a judge who twisted the verdict against me.”
One participant, who initially did not want to speak publicly, was inspired by the women around her and changed her mind about talking.
“I’ve been married for 16 years. I also have been physically and verbally abused,” she said. “I endured because I knew I had no rights, I didn't want to get a divorce for the sake of my kids. I lost my health along the way due to all the pressures and problems I’ve faced,” she added.
Solidarity was evident between the speakers as they held hands and stood side by side supporting each woman as she told her story with a shaking yet, brave voice demanding rights to custody and divorce.
“It’s important for us as women from different sects to stand together and demand a united civil law that protects us all,” one of the speakers told Annahar.
Some people who unexpectedly passed by the area without knowing that the demonstration was taking place were amazed by it and stopped in support of the speakers.
“I was passing by without knowing about the demonstration. I saw all these women sharing their stories in agony and was captivated so, I decided to stay and listen to what they had to say,” said Hussein Itani, a lecturer and communication professional.
“I realized how unaware I am of what’s happening in the country regarding these issues and wanted to learn more,” Itani added.
Beyond discussing custody rights and divorce, the demonstration also included the protestation against child marriage.
Layla Awada, a lawyer at KAFA and one of the NGO’s founders, explained that young girls from all religious backgrounds are not protected from early marriages.
“This is a societal problem that we’re facing today. It doesn’t exclude any young girl no matter what her religious background is,” said Awada.
The lawyer announced that a law is currently being discussed in the parliament to raise the legal age for marriage to 18 years old.
“But, what stands in the way of such laws are the religious sects. Our main battle today is for the country to reclaim its authority from these sectors,” continued Awada.
Welcome to “Naya”, the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at forti-fying 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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