A Rape Attempt in Hamra

A 20 year old girl recently suffered through a rape attempt while going back to her apartment in Hamra. The man followed her to her apartment where he attacked her and ordered her not to scream. But she did scream. So he beat her up and she kept on screaming until the neighbors and people on the street ran towards her.

The man was given to authorities. The man was a married man with children and who worked with our army, an entity theoretically tasked with making sure our women and children are protected from the travesties that living in Lebanon entail.

I salute that woman’s courage. Not only for standing up to her rapist and shouting her lungs out despite him threatening her life, but for having the courage to stand up to him when he was taken into custody and tell her story for the world to hear.

A friend of mine was sexually assaulted in Gemmayze almost a year ago (her story). It wasn’t as physical as the story in question but what my friend and that woman are is lucky Lebanese women.

How many more stories that are similar or worse than this should we propagate and hear before we get a law that makes sure that, if the worst case scenario were to happen, the rapist in question wouldn’t roam the streets with the least repercussions possible?

How many more times should I hear the phrase “you’re lucky you’re a guy” from friends who happen to be girls and who are afraid to walk certain streets alone at night? Till when are our women supposed to live in legal and protective dark ages while the country boasts liberalism that is truly anything but?

And till when should the violation of our women be a matter of taboo that should rarely be discussed through public means?

Myriam Achkar’s Murderer Gets The Death Sentence

Myriam Achkar

Syrian Fathi Jabr al-Salatine who brutally murdered Myriam Achkar last year just got the death sentence for his crime. For those who don’t remember, Achkar – a devout Christian girl – was on her way to a monastery in Sahel Alma to pray when she was ambushed by the Syrian who worked at the convent. He tried to force himself on her. She resisted. He couldn’t rape her so he ended up killing her.

I was personally skeptical he’d even receive a trial and at one point, it looked like the Syrian authorities had asked he be deported to Syria where he would get a trial. A Syrian trial obviously meant nothing would happen to Al-Salatine. I’m glad that didn’t happen – and the death penalty is what this man deserves.

A lot of you may be against the death penalty and consider it a breach of human rights. I disagree. You can’t understand a family’s need to get a death penalty conviction against the person who murdered one of them in such a brutal way unless you’re one of those families. And mine is.

The Lebanese Help: Lebanese Cop Rapes Maid on Valentine’s Day

February 14th is when this happened. April 5th is when we found out about it. They sure know how to cover their tracks.

The cop in question was apparently lonely on Valentine’s Day. So the only way he could find company was to force himself on a maid he had behind bars in his headquarters in Nabatiyeh. The reason she was in jail? She tried to escape from her employers, for many reasons.

Soon after, the maid was taken to a women jail in Baabda where evidence of violence was noticed on her body. An official investigation was opened but the judge saw nothing that deserved attention so he only ordered the cop to be arrested for one day. Soon after, another judge in Nabatiyeh found out about the incidence and worked on keeping the cop in question in jail, pending trial and further investigation.

Today, the cop is still in jail – which is exactly where he should be. Some people try to somehow rationalize the cop’s behavior as him being “only human.”

That’s not an excuse. Cops are supposed to be here to protect us, not violate us. If we can’t trust them to keep their hormones in check, then who can we trust?

Perhaps Lebanese General Security should be way more thorough in checking those who apply to be part of their field. According to the article I linked to earlier, many General Security individuals have priors. How did they end up becoming those who keep the country’s security in check?

One word: wasta.

I fear that this cop’s wasta will soon work to get him out almost unscathed. The raped maid? She’ll be deported soon because there’s nothing else we can do, even though her stay here has scarred her both mentally and physically for life.

But for once, I salute the Lebanese judicial system for not letting something like this slide. Here’s hoping more maids get the same justice for the many wrongs Lebanese do to them – even if for a limited time.

Fight Rape in Lebanon: The January 14th Protest

The women and men of Lebanon are taking it to the streets of Beirut on January 14 in their struggle to get our legislators to recognize rape as a criminal activity even among spouses, marital rape. As it is, Lebanese law only recognizes rape as such when it’s done by non-married individuals. And when the act of rape has been verified, the perpetrator has the right to offer marriage to the victim and his act would be absolved.

An interesting post by Beirut Spring regarding this matter exemplifies the distinction between marital rape and rape as the former being part of domestic laws, where men of religion rule supreme, and the latter being part of criminal laws, governed by parliament. And as you know in Lebanon, men of religion always win – especially when outdated scripture is their only reference for logic, not the needs of a 21st century society.

If that doesn’t sicken you enough, there’s even a section in our law that goes into the specifics of how torn a woman’s hymen has to be for her to be considered raped. I posted about it before, which you can check here.

But what’s worse is that most men, and many women, are very oblivious to how pejorative these laws are to them all. Sexual assault is not only exclusive to physical acts. Its scope also includes sexual harassment which Lebanese law doesn’t cover as well. Sure, these laws are giving the men of Lebanon an “upper hand” in society. But it’s not really an upper hand when this hand is raised over the other crucial component of Lebanese society: its women. A society where women are not given full rights is a dysfunctional society at its heart and core.

Men are also affected by the unfairness of the laws, although obviously not as much as women. I’m certain no father, husband, brother would accept his sister or wife or any female member of his family and close circle be violated in any way – and to have no law for her to lean on and defend her.

The January 14 protest is needed for Lebanese society. It’s the first time I’ve seen an anti-rape march getting this much propagation around the social networks. This is a sign as to how much the youth in our community want to change thing. But I have a simple question that doesn’t attempt in any way whatsoever to lessen the importance of the protest at hand.

Rape is a crime, regardless of who does it.

What do the protesters truly hope to achieve? I’m only asking this out of concern for the cause. The objective of the protest is surely righteous. But I can’t shake the feeling that this movement is stillborn for many reasons.

In my opinion, a parliament full of men taken straight of the dark ages will never ratify a law that brings the women of Lebanon into the 21st century. Like it or not, the men of our parliament (not all of them obviously but a decent chunk of them) are fine with the status quo. It doesn’t help that women have less than 10 MPs out of 128 to represent them (and not properly may I add). Perhaps the fight should be to ensure that women can actually get to office and fight for their rights from there. Perhaps the women of Lebanon should protest to get the elite of them, who can actually voice their concerns during parliamentary sessions, to be their parliament representatives. And there are many elite women in Lebanese society, who surpass at least half the men of our current parliament in qualifications.

It is here that the need for an upheaval of our laws is in need – and such changes cannot happen in the drastic way that they are needed without active female participation in making the decisions. You might think the “female quota” is limiting. Well ponder on this: is the situation without the quota any better? And can it get any better without a quota?

This post is not to lessen of the importance of the protest nor is it to belittle of the demands, as I made obvious in the first part of this post. This is simply to say that in the current political atmosphere of the country, the only way for women to have their full rights given is to assert political power. And women asserting political power cannot happen except through an electoral law that suits their needs . We’d be fools if we thought Lebanese officials actually cared about rape at the moment. The women (and the men of Lebanon who support them) would be fools to believe the men of our parliament actually care enough, deep down, to change things on the ground. All they care about is doing whatever they can to get re-elected next year. Many believe the ultimate solution is a civil state. Sure, a civil state is needed. But a Lebanese civil state will take a long time to happen in Lebanon and this matter is very urgent – more urgent than the oil law that has been debated for months now.

There is something, however, that is happening much sooner than a Lebanese civil state. Parliamentary elections are in a year. The law to run these elections is being discussed now. In a few months, the preparations for the elections will go underway and the voices of these women will be diluted and tuned out – unless they get their voices heard now and get themselves a secured proportion of representation in the parliament that will arise from the 2013 elections.

So Saturday’s protest becomes, as I see it and as Beirut Spring eloquently put in a follow-up post, “a watershed demonstration against denial and stigma in our society.” Perhaps it will get more people to be aware of the horrors our women have to face. Will it bring about change? I doubt the stubbornness of those in charge will let any change happen. So on Saturday the women and men of Lebanon march for a righteous cause. And I truly hope the slogans they will chant up until their vocal cords rip won’t fall onto ears as dead as the laws they want to change.

Lebanese Law on Rape & Virginity: The Hymen Criteria

As many of you know, I am currently pursuing a medical degree. And as part of our medical education, we get numerous anatomy lectures that cover every human body part in its dull details.

On Tuesday, we were being given a lecture about the female pelvis and perineum. Being a morning lecture, most of the class was asleep – that is until the discussion about hymens started.

For those of you who don’t know, the hymen is a thin epithelial perforated layer that serves as a “curtain” to the vagina. For many, it is considered as a sign of “virginity” although it isn’t a highly credible criteria: the hymen being as thin as it is can be broken off in many ways that do not include intercourse and can also be repaired through a procedure called hymenoplasty.

But in our parts of the world, this 2 cm layer of skin is the honor of a man, not knowing that true honor comes by not caring about such minute details in the first place. After all, men in our region are considered as “men” if they have had premarital sex and those same men condemn the women who do as if they’d be having sex alone.

But I digress. This is not a post to discuss our region’s sociological ways.

During that same lecture, the doctor giving the lecture opened up a discussion about one criteria of rape in Lebanese law. I know our law when it comes to rape is overly messed up. There’s nothing that works in it. But this part of it, which most people are often clueless about, is simply mind-blowlingly stupid.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of that law where if someone commits suicide and they happen to fall on your car then it’s automatically your fault? Well this its vagina-equivalence.

What’s the law? If a girl said she were raped but her hymen had not been torn off to the walls of the vagina, then it’s not considered rape.

Meaning, if it’s obvious the girl had intercourse but the intercourse had not caused her hymen to be torn off completely, then the examining physician cannot say she was raped.

In a part of our laws that is so absurd, this often goes unnoticed that even the doctor giving us the lecture was outraged at the number of times he had to dismiss women who were obviously violated just because Lebanese law does not allow him to say so.