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Lebanese MPs confirm repeal of 'marry your rapist' law

Parliament officially ditches article 522, which allowed for the sex attacker to avoid prosecution by marrying their victim
Protesters against Article 522 take part in 14th annual Beirut marathon on 13 November (AFP)

Lebanon's parliament on Wednesday scrapped a controversial law allowing rapists who marry their victims to go free, official media and activists said, after a high-profile campaign for its repeal.

A proposal to repeal Article 522 of the penal code - which deals with rape, assault, kidnapping and forced marriage - was introduced last year and approved by a parliamentary committee in February.

On Wednesday, it was ratified by the full parliament, the official National News Agency and activist group ABAAD said.

"Congratulations to women in Lebanon," the NGO wrote in a statement on its Facebook page.

"Today's win is a victory for the dignity of women," it added.

"It is no longer possible to escape punishment for rape and sexual acts carried out by force and coercion," said the group, which has spearheaded the campaign to repeal the much-reviled article.

The article, which also dealt with the rape of minors, allowed for the perpetrator of sexual assault to avoid prosecution by marrying their victim.

There are no precise figures on how many rapists marry their victims to avoid punishment, but activists say the practice mainly took place in rural areas.

Commenting on the move, Bassam Khawaja, a Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the repeal of article 522 was "an important and overdue step to protect women's rights".

“Parliament should now follow this up by passing pending legislation to end child marriage and marital rape, both of which are still legal in Lebanon.”

'Partial victory'

Some women's rights campaigners however saw the victory as incomplete. 

In a Facebook post published on Wednesday, Lebanese NGO KAFA wrote: "Lebanese women have not been victorious as Jordanian women have been. Article 522 was only partially abolished."

"Again, parliament tried to distract us today by focusing on secondary issues but in reality patriarchy remains the primary victor. The manifestations of Article 522 remains present in Article 505 which exempts underage rapists from punishment and prosecution if they marry their victims."

"We will not compromise on women's rights. Therefore, our campaign to completely abolish Article 522 is still ongoing," added the statement.

Lebanon's decision comes just over two weeks after Jordan's parliament binned a similar article in its penal code.

And in July, Tunisia passed legislation doing the same as part of a bill designed to "end all violence against women".

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