Lebanese Activists Protest ‘Stone Age’ Rape Law With Haunting Public Art Piece

Lebanese activists are keeping the pressure on members of parliament as the time nears to repeal a widely criticized rape law that commutes the sentences of rapists who marry their victims. 

Along Beirut’s coastline Saturday, 31 paper wedding dresses hung by nooses created by Lebanese sculptor Mireille Honeïn were installed as part of the 16-day long campaign against Lebanon’s Article 522.

MPs could vote on May 15 to repeal the law. 

“This Article 522 is from the stone age. It’s not acceptable for people to talk about it anymore,” Jean Oghassabian, Lebanon’s minister for women’s affairs, told Agence France Presse. “How is it reasonable for a woman to be raped and then sold into a prison?”

Alia Awada, from the nongovernmental organization Abaad, which promotes equality for women, explained the symbolism of the 31 dresses to the AFP.   

“There are 31 days in a month and every single day, a woman may be raped and forced to marry her rapist,” Awada said. 

In a February interview with the Huffington Post, Awada said that when an unmarried girl is raped and her case is taken to court, the judge typically suggests the girl marry her rapist as a way of preserving the family’s honor. 

“All three sides – the judge, the girl’s family and her rapist – must agree to the marriage,” Awada said. 

How is it reasonable for a woman to be raped and then sold into a prison?”
Jean Oghassabian, Lebanon’s minister for women’s affairs

Rothna Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the law violates women and girls a second time by trapping them into life with their rapist.

“Protecting honor should be about ensuring that attackers are punished and promoting social attitudes that support survivors of sexual violence instead of stigmatizing them,” Begum said.

Human Rights Watch notes that a growing number of countries have repealed such laws that grant rapists clemency for marrying victims in recent years: France and Peru repealed such laws in the 1990s, while Costa Rica and Uruguay both repealed such laws in the past decade, in 2007 and 2006 respectively.

Last December, a parliamentary committee announced an agreement to repeal the law. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has previously said he “applauded” the repeal of Article 522.  

“I applaud the Administration and Justice Committee’s cancelation of Article 522 that exempts a rapist from penalties if he marries his victim. We now await the completion of this civilized step for the upcoming legislative session.”

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The First Round In The French Presidential Elections Marked A Political Earthquake

PARIS ― The wait is finally over. At the end of a historic campaign, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen decisively defeated Jean-Luc Mélenchon and François Fillon in the first round of the French presidential election.

Sunday’s results are a landmark moment in France’s recent political history. As many as four candidates stood a chance of advancing to this year’s runoff, and for the first time ever in the history of the Fifth Republic, neither the Republican Party nor the Socialist Party will have a candidate in the second round. 

Macron, the centrist candidate who formed his own party, En Marche! (which translates roughly to “Onward!”), is set to win the first round of the election with 23.8 percent of the vote, according to projections on Sunday night. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for the former economy minister who ran without support from any of the main four parties in Parliament.

“The two political parties that have governed France for years have been discarded,” Macron said on Sunday night. 

Le Pen, the head of the National Front party, will likely win 22 percent of the vote ― nearly 4 points more than she took home in the previous election. While it appears she didn’t come in first, her spot in the runoff marks a historic moment for the far-right, nationalist party. 

Fillon And The Crisis On The Right

The biggest disappointment of the night was for Fillon. The conservative Republican candidate will be eliminated in the first round with around 19-20 percent of the vote. While Fillon was the front-runner five months ago, allegations that he paid family members to work as parliamentary aides eventually meant the end of the former prime minister’s presidential aspirations.

Fillon’s defeat, combined with Macron’s victory, are likely to cause a serious crisis within the Republican Party. Fillon said on Sunday he plans to vote for Macron and urged his followers to do the same. “Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right,” Fillon said. 

Mélenchon, the left-wing candidate of La France Insoumise (“A France That Won’t Bow Down”) surged in the polls in the final weeks of the campaign and appears set to eventually take home 18-19 percent of the vote. Mélenchon ran a dynamic and innovative campaign, and while he didn’t manage to reach the runoff, he improved his 2012 score by 7 points. His strong personal results and the collapse of the Socialist Party may allow him to lay the groundwork for a vast citizens’ movement. 

Race To The Bottom For The Socialist Party

For Benoît Hamon, the candidate of President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party, hopes for a last-minute surprise did not pan out. A victim of the divisions within his own party and Mélenchon’s appeal, Hamon took home the worst score ever recorded by a candidate for his party in the presidential election.

There’s no doubt that Hamon’s defeat will bring more political leverage for his Socialist Party colleague, Manual Valls. Valls, a former prime minister, stunned in March by announcing his support for Macron rather than for Hamon, the candidate of his own political party.

This story first appeared on HuffPost France and was translated into English. 

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