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Lebanon passes landmark law criminalising sexual harassment

The landmark law will see perpetrators of sexual harassment and abuse penalised [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 December, 2020

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Lebanon's parliament on Monday passed a landmark bill criminalising sexual harassment and amended a controversial domestic violence law.
Lebanon's parliament has passed a law to criminalise sexual harassment and rehabilitate its victims, local media reported on Monday. 

The landmark law will see perpetrators of sexual harassment and abuse, including in the workplace, penalised.

Per the law, perpetrators can be sentenced to up to two years in prison and fined up to 20 times the value of the minimum wage, which stands at 675,000 Lebanese pounds ($450 at the official exchange rate but less than $100 on the black market), according to Lebanese rights group Legal Agenda. 

Maximum penalties are reserved for harassment in the work place, public institutions or educational facilities.

Monday's parliamentary session also passed amendments to a controversial domestic violence law, to include further protection-related measures to end violence against women in Lebanon.

Draft laws to criminalise sexual harassment have been previously proposed on many occasions but were never adopted, despite rampant cases of sexual harassment in Lebanon. 

"Following years of struggle, parliament has approved on Monday to criminalise sexual harassment and rehabilitate its victims," the National Commission for Lebanese women confirmed.

Last month, a Human Right Watch report found that Lebanon was falling short of its international legal obligations to protect women and girls from violence and end discrimination against them.

The November reported, which was submitted by HRW to a UN Committee reviewing Lebanon’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), found that the country has not made progress to carry out a number of recommendations from its previous review in 2015.

"Another five years have passed, and Lebanon has done little to end discrimination against women and girls under its international obligations," said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. 

"Lebanon's authorities should show that they are serious about women's rights by coming through on long-overdue reforms before they have to answer to the United Nations again for their failures." 

The recommendations had included guaranteeing equal treatment for all Lebanese citizens and amending the discriminatory nationality law to ensure that Lebanese women married to non-Lebanese men can pass on their citizenship to their children.

"For the past year, women from all walks of life have taken to the streets to demand equality and an end to all forms of discrimination," Majzoub said.

"While the authorities have taken some steps, they need to heed calls for systemic change for equality."

Lebanon's economic crisis, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and the port explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020, has made life worse for women and marginalised communities.

According to figures released by the Internal Security Forces, calls to its hotline related to domestic and gender-based violence have risen by more than 50% since March.

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