A brief review of the current state of violations of
women's rights in Lebanon

In 1996 Lebanon has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Despite this ratification, an overall look on its true state of affairs, legislation and the dealing of its public and private institutions with women, shows the great amount of violations of women's rights. The process of amending the Lebanese legislation regarding women to bring it into conformity with the convention is far from being completed.

The General law including the constitutional, administrative and election law complies with the principle of equality and thus with the convention. In Lebanon the constitutional provisions are considered as a security for the protection and respect of Human Rights and constitute a fundamental legal support for women's rights in Lebanon.

The most important Lebanese laws that are still discriminating against women are those found in the sectors of the Private law. These legal obstacles required the Lebanese government to make reservations on article 9 paragraph 2 and article 16 paragraph 1 sections (c-d-f-g) and article 29 paragraph 1 of CEDAW. Examples of such laws are the following:

1-The Personal Status Law

2- The Nationality Law

3-The Penal Law

4-The Labor and Social Security laws and the Employees' Laws

5- The Terrestrial Trade Law

1- The Personal Status Law

Lebanon is a country of different religions; the confessional laws by virtue of article 9 of the Lebanese constitution regulate the personal status. The Lebanese law recognizes 18 confessions and grants the authority to religious courts. Therefore the personal status law depends on these various religion laws and not on one unified civil law. The attempts to pass such an optional unified civil law collided with the confessional reality.

This is why we have various Personal status laws that regulate conjugal relations and inheritance. These laws required making reservations on article 16 of the convention and consequently, they discriminate against women. Attempts to recommend a uniform civil law for personal status were launched in 1974 and recently in 1994 an optional formula was submitted to the government. The cabinet has ratified it after it was presented by the president; however it was not submitted to the parliament contradicting the legal rules. At present Ngo's are drafting a civil optional bill that ensures equality between men and women.

Where do violations of women's rights in the personal status law occur?

The reservations made on article 16 of the convention concerns personal status, marriage and family all constitute violations of women's rights. Part 1 paragraph (c) relevant to the equality between both parents in rights and obligations in marriage. Paragraph (d) relevant to the equality in the rights and obligations for mothers. Paragraph (f) relevant to the equality concerning the children's guardianship, custody, tutelage and adoption. Paragraph (g) concerning the personal rights of the husband and wife. So Women's role is acknowledged only in texts, however, in practice women are confined to their biological functions. The Personal status laws threaten women with divorce, homelessness and polygamy. Women are also subjected to the prevention from compensation, children's custody and from inheritance.The Personal status laws also encompass different degrees of domestic violence against women.Violence in Lebanon remains without any legal protection and expose women to disgrace in case of disclosure or talk. Such laws still confirm the accessory role of women and allows various forms of moral and physical violence against them. Such unfair discrimination against women clearly appears in the law of divorce and the impacts resulting from it. The consequences of divorce, seperation or dissolution of marriage comprise many aspects of injustice towards women.There aren't any measures set forth in such laws to prevent family violence.

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2- The Nationality Law

The Lebanese nationality law still discriminates against women and has required the government to make reservations on article 9 paragraph 2 of CEDAW. This reservation regards the right of the Lebanese women to grant the nationality to their children.

Where do violations of women's rights in the nationality law occur?

1- The Lebanese nationality law restricts consanguinity to the father. Every person born from a Lebanese father no matter where is deemed Lebanese. Consequently, the Lebanese mothers can not grant their nationality to their children and are deprived of their basic rights as citizens.

2- The Lebanese nationality law also discriminates between mothers Lebanese by origin and foreign naturalized mothers. Since this law entitles foreign mothers who have acquired the Lebanese nationality the right to give it to their children after the death of their father, while it deprives this right from the Lebanese women by origin.

3- This law gives the Lebanese husband the right to give his Lebanese nationality to his spouse, while it deprives this right from the Lebanese women married to a foreigner.

4- Finally, this law constitutes a minimization of women's rights in the case of their reacquiring the Lebanese nationality lost due to their marriage to foreigners, because it is subject to the approval of the foreign husband.

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3- The Penal Law

The Lebanese Penal Law still includes some provisions that are considered as violations of women's rights.

Where do violations of women's rights in the penal law occur?

Articles:487-488-489-503-504-505-506-513-515-627-753-522-and 562 of the Lebanese Penal Law still obviously discriminate against women and constitute a clear violation to CEDAW; particularly to Article 2 pargraph (g) that obliges state parties to repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women.

Article 562 of the penal code on what is called "Crimes of Honor" is of great discrimination against women. It was recently amended in 1999 but the amendment was not complete, it can be considered as a partial one because it only amends the conditions of benefiting from the article. The article still preserves the principle of killing women by family men members and is incompatible with article 2 paragraph (g) of the convention. Provisions concerning adultory crimes are also discriminating against women. Domestic violence is a major type of violence practiced against women. Our penal law does not protect women from such violence. The penal law punishes those who commit any act of harm in general, so it does not consider harm caused by violence against women as a crime on its own . The Lebanese penal law still lacks such specific provisions . Once more, the penal law doesn't comprise special provisions concerning slander, defamation and vilification incurred by married women.

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4-The Labor and Social Security Laws and the Employees' Laws

Where do violations of women's rights in the labor and social security laws and the employees' laws and regulations occur?

Women became partners with men in assuming the responsibility of their families and in building up society. Unfortunately, employees' laws and regulations, in addition to procedure, are discriminating between men and women employees through some of their articles. They also prejudice women employees, especially in respect of equality and the right to family allowances. Unlike men, women employees do not profit from social security benefits and family compensation. Moreover, they are not subject to the same conditions as men, although the Lebanese government deducts, every month, from women employees' salaries the same amount as from men's salaries in order to finance the cooperative fund. Yet, judicial authorities apply the ILO covenants to the advantage of women in this field.

On october 30, 1999 law no. 149 was issued to ensure equality between female and male employers but it turned out that this law still discriminates against women because it is based on other discriminatory laws.

Discrimination also still exists in the labor law although some amendments have been brought about on it recently. Law no. 207 issued on may 26,2000, amended articles 26-28-29 and 52 (1) of the labor law. One of this laws amendments is that of article 28 and 29 concerning the maternity leave period; the initially 40 days leave was extended to 49 days. Nevertheless, the provisions of the labor law still discriminate against women in a way or another. The Lebanese law did not give women the freedom of choice regarding the types, place and timing of the jobs performed by them until it was recently amendment under article 26. Furthermore, it does not punish the employers or their agents who use their positions to sexually harass their female employees. Moreover, the maternity leave period that was amended is still unfair; it must be amended so that it shall be according to ILO laws and CEDAW. Eventually, there is no equality concerning working hours and salaries between men and women in Lebanon.

Finally, although the social security fund collects the same contribution from insured working women and men, yet there are some articles of this law that are contradictory to and incompatible with articles 2, 11, 12 and 13(a) of the convention and discriminate between men and women. Furthermore, this law does not completely ensure human rights for working women, especially with regard to pregnancy and maternity periods.

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5- The Terrestrial Trade Law:

Discrimination appears in the terrestrial trade law, at least, in its provision despite the fact that women are working the same as men, yet some provisions, especially articles 625, 626, 627 and 628, still discriminate between men and women. Parliament members passed a bill to amend the terrestrial trade law and sent it to the Prime Minister on May 31,1999 for examination and on August 17,1999 the government approved the amendment of certain articles, namely articles 625 and 627, thus women became almost equal to men as far as bankruptcy is concerned.

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