Changing Attitudes on Personal Status Codes in MENA

Posted on 28 January 2013 by

by Olivia Alabaster for WLP Lebanon/CRTD.A

Two speakers from Lebanon each discussed how a unified, civil Personal Status Code would not only help protect the rights of women but that it would also combat sectarianism.

Manar Zeaitar spoke about the issue of civil marriage; recently in the news given the President’s vocal support for it after a couple announced they had held the country’s first civil marriage ceremony, in line with a 1936 decree.

“A lot of people say that we’re better off than other Arab countries as we don’t have a specific religion in the Constitution but even in the Parliament, which is supposed to be civil, even the simplest bills go through sects,” she said., adding that, “We live under a lot of masculine interpretations,” with many laws assuming women are incompetent.

Some sects do not allow divorce and domestic violence is not outlawed, even though a draft law presented by women’s rights activists is sitting in Parliament.

The recent civil marriage, although not yet formalized by the Interior Ministry, might open the door for progress in this issue, Zeaitar said.

“We believe that having one law would be one thing that would gather all sects,” she said, and added that “there are so many women victims because of having all of these laws. And now the Lebanese people are gaining more awareness, despite all of these challenges.”

Zoya Rouhana, from the KAFA organization to end violence against women, echoed this sentiment, and said that the recent discussion of marital rape in public was an encouraging step forward, despite the fact it had to be discussed at all, given its deletion from a draft law on domestic violence by a Parliamentary committee studying it.

“Undoubtedly personal status laws are one main source of the violence practiced against women.”

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