|Date: Mar 21, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|MPs in ‘heated discussion’ on child marriage|
|Abby Sewell| The Daily Star|
BEIRUT: Parliament’s Administration and Justice Committee debated the question of child marriage Tuesday, but failed to reach a consensus, a member of the committee said. Independent MP Paula Yacoubian, who sits on the committee, said there was a “heated discussion” on the question of legislating a minimum age for marriage in Lebanon. As has been the case in the past, she said opponents of setting a minimum age - in this case, legislators from Hezbollah and the Future Movement - argued that the matter should be left to religious authorities, which currently regulate issues related to marriage in the country.
Yacoubian said she argued that if Parliament could pass legislation requiring medical tests before marriage, it could also regulate the age of unions. “When we have the right to legislate this, we also have the right to protect kids from getting married or little girls from getting sold,” she told The Daily Star. “Just like we protect people in health issues, we should protect them also in an issue that has a health aspect, too, because girls are dying from early marriage and from the pregnancy when the womb is not mature enough to hold babies.” Several other members of the committee, including its chair, MP George Adwan of the Lebanese Forces, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
A statement released by Adwan via the National News Agency did not mention the child marriage discussion but said the committee had talked about issues raised in the media relating to Customs operations. Yacoubian said discussion centered around claims that Customs agents were in some cases accepting bribes to allow goods to enter the country without paying the required fees, or otherwise breaching the law.
In the NNA statement on the issue, Adwan said, “We call on all authorities to move, including the public prosecution and the Central Inspection [Bureau],” to investigate and address the potential violations.
“The Administration and Justice Committee decided to take the Customs file in hand, and I will be in communication with the finance minister,” he said. “We will have a hearing on this issue next week.”
Customs falls under the authority of the Finance Ministry.
Also Tuesday, Parliament’s Public Health, Labor and Social Affairs Committee discussed potential amendments to the law governing the study and practice of the pharmacy profession in order to address a surplus of pharmacy graduates entering the workforce and, in many cases, ending up unemployed.
Committee Chair MP Assem Araji of the Future Movement said in a statement reported by the NNA, “In the medical profession, there are huge numbers of graduates: pharmacists, doctors, dentists, laboratory workers. Most graduates do not find work. It is our duty to enact a law so that we deliver smaller numbers, and so that their scientific quality is the best.”
He noted that Lebanon had a large number of pharmacists for its size - some 7,000 pharmacists in 3,200 pharmacies. He said the legislature would start by looking at ways to reduce the number of pharmacy graduates, potentially by limiting the number of students who can enter the pharmacy colleges each year based on the needs of the industry and in cooperation with the pharmacists’ syndicate.
The Public Works, Transportation, Energy and Water Committee held a session to discuss pollution in the Litani River. But as the heads of the relevant government ministries were not present, the committee members agreed to call a meeting next Tuesday to discuss the same topic and to invite the ministers.
Also Tuesday, the Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Committee discussed Lebanon’s accession to the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean and a protocol framework agreement between Lebanon and the European Union on the general principles of Lebanon’s participation in EU programs.