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Conflict Incident Report
Spate of women’s deaths sparks Beirut protest
Dozens of people protested violence against women outside the Lebanese Parliament in Beirut. The demonstration, titled “8 is not just a number,” aimed to denounce inaction by the authorities after at least eight women have been killed since early December.
The protest was organized by civil society groups, including the rights association KAFA (Enough Violence and Exploitation), which wants legislative reforms to protect women from domestic violence.
Red wooden cutout silhouettes representing victims, including the eight, were set up in the square outside Parliament.
Demonstrators brandished placards bearing slogans including “Anger is no excuse” and “No funeral before justice.”
Since early December, eight women have died violently in Lebanon, including a woman who was shot dead by her husband last Monday in Beirut.
Also among the dead was a 15-year-old who killed herself, reportedly due to her early marriage, and British Embassy employee Rebecca Dykes who was murdered by a taxi driver in December.
“Women are dying one after the other because of inaction by the legislative, executive and judicial powers that don’t consider this to be a priority issue,” said a statement signed by several NGOs and civil society groups, including KAFA, Beirut Madinati, the Lebanese Council for Women and emerging political party Libaladi, among others.
“These crimes are not individual incidents that are separate from one another but are a direct result of the cultural, political and economic system that produces systematic violence against women and is enshrined in laws, customs, traditions, and education,” the statement added.
In 2014, Lebanon passed Law 293, which for the first time set penalties for domestic violence after an unprecedented campaign sparked by the murders of several women by their husbands.
However, KAFA is demanding that the law be amended to lay down more rigorous penalties for conjugal violence and to ensure cases are dealt with faster.
“We want justice – justice for Zahraa and all the girls. We want the criminals to be punished,” said 50-year-old Ali al-Qabbout, referring to his daughter, who was killed more than a year ago by her ex-husband.
Many have criticized the government for the sluggishness with which cases of gender-based violence move through the legal system and the light sentences often handed to the convicted perpetrators.
“It is unacceptable that many files wait for more than three years for the indictment to be issued and [many] still haven’t reached the court. ... It is unacceptable that the husband of Roula Yaacoub was tried and set free,” the statement said.
Yaacoub, a 31-year-old teacher, was beaten to death with a pressure cooker in 2013.
Although her husband, Karam al-Bazzi, was accused, a court cleared him of any wrongdoing in early 2014.
“There was no sufficient evidence to believe that the defendant caused the death of his wife,” the Judicial Council said following protests at the verdict.
However, a north Lebanon prosecutor ordered an expanded investigation into Yaacoub’s death in July 2014.
Saturday’s protesters lashed out at ministers, who have said the crimes were “exaggerated” so as not to harm tourism.
“In the next election, we will hold you accountable at the ballot box; we will not vote for the masculine ideology that kills women, we will not vote for the sectarian ideology that kills women, the lives of women are more important than your chairs,” the statement read.
Lebanon will hold a general election on May 6.