BEIRUT: The Lebanese Women’s Council defended a draft law to protect women from domestic violence Tuesday, following the law’s rejection by the country’s highest Sunni body Dar al-Fatwa and the Higher Shiite Council.
In June, Dar al-Fatwa released a 16-point statement giving reasons why the draft law should not pass in Parliament and describing it as a Western idea designed to dismantle the Muslim family, rather than improve women’s status in the country.
In its statement, the Lebanese Women’s Council rejected the notion that the draft law was out of sync with Lebanese society.
“Those who drafted the law prepared it after researching it with experts who placed their plural society into consideration in a bid to create fair laws,” the council’s statement said.
The draft law was written by activists and approved in April 2010 by the Cabinet under former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and sent to Parliament for a vote. It is still being debated by a parliamentary committee and has since sparked heavy debate, with religious figures and lawmakers such as Sports and Youth Minister Faisal Karami describing it as a blow to family values and unfit for Muslim society.
The council rejected the idea that the draft law overrode Muslim values or religious laws.
“Our aim is to better the female status in the family and society and help enforce religious laws over those who don’t respect them … those who have taken religion as an excuse for practicing male dominance without logic, justice, fairness or accountability,” the statement said.
The statement also responded to Dar al-Fatwa’s reasoning that the law would eliminate the role of the father in the Muslim family, saying: “We seek to better the status of the family as a whole … we ask both the father and the mother to raise their children well and we don’t accept violence by the male against any human [being].”
The Vice President of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan said last week the draft law should win the common approval of the Muslim community.
The statement, written by the head of the council, Aman Shaarani, also responded to allegations that the law eliminates the role of religious courts but that civil and religious courts could carry out an organized mechanism to reach results without any conflicts over prerogatives.
The law has received support from MPs such as Michel Moussa, the head of the human rights parliamentary committee, who believes that the law should pass, with minor changes to eliminate any laws that might “harm” religion.
The council pointed out that there are a great number of cases where a mother is too afraid to report abuse at religious courts in order to protect her family’s reputation.
“Studies and surveys have shown that an oppressed woman does not always file a complaint in order to preserve her family’s reputation and there are males that do not apply religious teachings and the ethical, religious and human laws in their families. Therefore, it is necessary to have laws that deter them from making mistakes,” the statement added.
The statement also defended a clause in the draft law that would penalize a husband for threatening to beat his wife, describing the punishment of threats as a deterrence to protect women.
“If a father or a brother forces a girl to marry someone for the sake of money or anything, Islam rejects forced marriage. And if that happens and the girl does not express her discontent out of fear from threats or other means then she will forever be a victim,” the statement added.
The council called on religious figures to engage in further dialogue with activists over the draft law, rather than reject it outright.