HCI welcomes and supports the proposed new amendments to the Lebanese laws and congratulates the individuals as well the organizations that worked so hard to make this possible.
HCI is delighted to hear that on Monday 16 May, the Committee on the Administration of Justice has voted to approve the proposed abolishment of the medieval Article 562 of the Penal Code which provides for a lesser sentence in the case of “honor killings”. Article 562 states that if a man catches a female family member in adultery or a suspicious situation with another person and murders her he will benefit from a mitigating excuse.
In the same week, the Budget Committee chose to endorse amendments which would level the field between men and women on the subjects of Tax Inheritance law, Tax Revenue law and the Social Security Taxes as proposed changes to make pay farer during maternity leave. As such, a woman would be allowed LL2.5 million for her husband and LLB500,000 for each of her children of her income untaxed once married as well as enjoy an increase in maternity pay from two-thirds of pay for 10 weeks to 100 percent of full pay.
Furthermore, the Committee on the Administration of Justice has also voted to propose a series of changes to the current laws on adultery that would make them applicable in the same way to both men and women.
These changes, if passed by Parliament represent an important, if overdue, step for Lebanon on its long journey to gender equality as supposedly guaranteed by article 7 of the constitution; “All Lebanese are equal before the Law”.
However, much more still needs to be done. Solely on the subject of Crimes of Honor, there are five articles of the Lebanese Penal Code (art. 193, 253, 487, 488 and 489) which will still provide for a reduction in the sentence of a man perceived to have committed a Crime of Honor. While articles 487, 488 and 489 are currently under review, the sheer number of articles on the issue shows to what extent the concept of Crimes of Honor is embedded in the Lebanese Constitution. Some argue, that although the legislation exists, Lebanese courts have extremely infrequently been allowing “honor” to be used as a defense. However, in a country in which Amnesty International estimated that in 2007, two women were being murdered every month for reasons of honor and in which at least three quarters of women are thought have been victims of domestic abuse at some point in their lives, we believe that it is a priority for any law that could perpetuate this entrenched cycle of violence against women to be quickly abolished. A single article of the Penal Code behind which a man who has committed an act of violence towards a woman can hide is an article too many.
Another prime example of gender inequality in Lebanon is the current Nationality Law, under which women do not possess the basic right to pass on citizenship to their children or husbands. This law, although much debated has seen plans for its change shelved after recent talks by the Parliamentary Committee on Women ground to a halt.
Here at HCI, we hope that in the very near future, Lebanon will honor the commitments made back in 1996 at the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against women and end gender equality within its borders.