Ghinwa Obeid| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Proposed amendments to improve the application of a law to protect women and family members from domestic violence were announced Friday, three years after the law was first passed. The anti-domestic violence act, Law 293, was passed by Parliament in April 2014 and went into effect in May the same year when it was published in the government’s Official Gazette.
In practice, however, the law proved to be problematic for many judges. This prompted KAFA Enough Violence and Exploitation, a local NGO, and the Justice Ministry to prepare the draft amendments, preceded by a roundtable discussion with a number of judges.
“I will present the draft law of amendments to Law 293 to the Cabinet to pass it and to refer it to Parliament,” Justice Minister Salim Jreissati said during an unveiling event at the ministry. “This is in hopes that these adjustments will contribute to eliminating the phenomenon of violence within Lebanese families.”
Jreissati acknowledged that there were gaps in the current law while addressing the attendees, who included Minister of State for Women’s Affairs Jean Ogasapian; Claudine Aoun Roukoz, chair of the National Commission for Lebanese Women and daughter of President Michel Aoun; and KAFA’s director, Zoya Rouhana.
“The law constituted a positive step that was described as a historic one ... but after more than two years of being in effect, the practical, scientific and legal evaluation process showed that the legal protection for our children, women, elderly and all weak and marginalized groups is still not enough,” he said.
Article 2 of Law 293, which covers definitions of terms, is among the articles considered for revision. The suggested adjustment is to specify that “the family includes either member of the couple, either while married or up to a year after divorce.”
The importance of this, according to a Leila Awada – a lawyer at KAFA – is to specify that even after a divorce some women are still subjected to violence and should be protected under the bill.
“We need to include the divorcee. There are many women who suffer from violence after divorce, especially if she wants to check up on her children and they’re under her [the ex-husband’s] custody, he might be violent towards her,” Awada told The Daily Star.
The definition of domestic violence will also be clarified in the proposed adjustments. The new suggested definition specifies that domestic violence is “any action, lack of action or threat of either that reflects the misuse of power within the family through the use of physical strength or other [means].”
“These amendments have been made after discussions with the judges and when the law ... was generalized to all family members as siblings who are disagreeing began to approach the judiciary under this law,” Awada said. “But not every disagreement between siblings is domestic violence. When we talk about violence, we’re talking about violence that is being practiced by an authority with the aim of control and repression.”
Another suggested change is to remove the specification that a protection order issued by the judiciary for a woman only covers any children if they are within the legal custody age based on personal status law.
“We cannot only include the children [that are] within the custody age,” Awada said. “We cannot separate, [for example] we can’t protect the girl and not protect the boy or vice versa. If the children are present within a circle of violence then they are victims of violence.”
Ogasapian praised the move to amend the law, reiterating that despite the law’s passing, full protection for women and family members in danger of domestic violence has yet to be ensured.
“There is no doubt that the law has encouraged many women subjected to violence to [seek] protection orders, but it didn’t stop the violence that continues to be practiced by others against women,” he said.
Despite these gaps, Rouhana said that many women have sought KAFA’s help and support to exercise their rights under Law 293.
She said an average of 793 cases per year have been recorded over the past three years, compared to 288 cases between April 2013 and March 2014 before the law was applied.
“The total number of cases that we’ve welcomed in our centers in the past three years between April 2014 and March 2017 has reached 2,380,” Rouhana said. “As for the national level ... we were able to gather all protection orders issued in different Lebanese governorates, and that exceeded 350 protection orders since the law’s endorsement up until the end of 2016.”
For her part, Roukoz said that offering protection for Lebanese women is one of the many goals she would like to see achieved. She underscored the important role women play in society and hence the need to protect their basic rights.
“The woman, with all that she represents of humanitarian and social values, deserves to be provided with full protection from all forms of violence,” Roukoz said.