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Lebanon passes disputed domestic violence law

Source: Reuters - Tue, 1 Apr 2014 15:12 GMT
Author: Reuters
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Activists hold up their red-inked thumbs and carry banners as they pose for the media during a sit-in near the parliament and in front of the U.N. headquarters in Beirut April 1, 2014. REUTERS/Sharif Karim
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BEIRUT, April 1 (Reuters) - Lebanon's parliament approved a law on Tuesday designed to curb domestic violence but activists said it had been watered down so much it would provide only limited protection for women.

Meeting for the first time since a year-long political deadlock was broken last month with the approval of a new government, parliament swiftly passed the law without introducing any of the changes demanded by campaigners.

"It was just theatre. In two minutes the law was approved without any of the requested amendments," said Faten Abou Chakra of KAFA, a group supporting abused women.

"This law is distorted, and will not guarantee real protection for women."

Thousands of protesters marched in Beirut three weeks ago to demand measures to outlaw domestic violence after the deaths earlier this year of two women in suspected cases of domestic violence.

One was bludgeoned with a pressure cooker and the other was reportedly poisoned with chemicals.

KAFA first proposed legislation seven years ago to establish penalties for domestic violence and provide protection orders. When the proposals eventually reached parliament they polarised politicians and were amended after lobbying from Lebanon's powerful religious establishment.

One amendment removes a reference to forced marriage, while another one introduces the spousal right to sexual intercourse, a move which critics say essentially legalises marital rape. (Reporting by Laila Bassam; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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