Under sustained pressure from Arab women’s groups, Lebanon has followed in the footsteps of Jordan and other Arab countries in repealing a law that gives rapists amnesty from prosecution if they marry their victims.
Such clauses — informally known as “marry the rapist laws” — can still exonerate rapists in several Arab countries as well as the majority Catholic Philippines, The New York Times reports. However after years of agitation from women’s groups a succession of countries have scrapped them.
Ghida Anani, the founder and director of Abaad, a women’s rights group in Lebanon told The Times the repeal was “the first step to changing the mind-set and traditions.”
“For us it’s the start,”Anani said. “Now the awareness and behavioral campaign will start to make women aware that it’s no longer an option: He cannot escape punishment.”
Abaad’s campaign tactics included erecting billboards that showed women wearing bloodied bridal gowns captioned with “A white dress doesn’t cover up rape.” The group also hung soiled dresses along the Corniche, Beirut’s famous seaside promenade.
In recent years Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco have repealed similar marry the rapist clauses. Countries where such provisions still persist include Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Palestine and Syria, as well as several countries in Latin America, the Philippines and Tajikistan according to Human Rights Watch.