Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

Lebanon: Treatment of Christian women in Lebanon in domestic abuse situations

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 13 December 2000
Citation / Document Symbol LBN35802.E
Reference 5
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Lebanon: Treatment of Christian women in Lebanon in domestic abuse situations, 13 December 2000, LBN35802.E, available at: [accessed 18 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

No information specific to the treatment of Christian women in Lebanon in domestic abuse situations could be found among the sources consulted. However, please find below the section on violence against women of the Report on the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) prepared by the Lebanese NGO Forum in March 2000:

VIII – Women and violence (article 6 and 16 )

1- The true state of violence in Lebanon.

Article 16 of the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women doesn't treat violence directly, however, it takes into consideration the legal source that legislates the use violence against women within their family relations, yet the obligations required by this article along with the issue of violence against women were clarified by the convention in the recommendations of the general committee, recommendation No. 19. Lebanon has made reserves concerning article 16 of the convention and no amendments were brought about on the laws that are not in accordance with the convention.

The statistics made by the general department of internal security show that in 1977, there were 1302 cases of aggression, among which 66 cases of rape, 54 cases of defloration, 62 cases of homicide, 110 cases of attempted murder as well as 1011 cases of assault and battery incurred by women in Lebanon. These figures are definitely a mere sample of what is really happening in Lebanon due to the cultural nature of this country. If domestic violence is the major type of violence practiced against women, yet violence at work is also another form of violence incurred by women in Lebanon. At work, violence is used primarily in salaries, promotion, training, retraining as well as in sexual harassment which is the traditional kind of violence practiced on a large scale in Lebanon and remains without any legal protection. The reference made by the "Lebanese council to resist violence against women" to the fact that the cases of rape incurred by young women were mostly accomplished by the employer, the schoolteacher, the cousin, the stepfather or the father. All of them have constituted 50% of the rape cases, while the father or husband has constituted alone the remainder 50%. The issue of domestic violence and violence at work is subject to the moral standards that expose women to moral disgrace in case of disclosure or talk. In Lebanon, there are no laws protecting family, women, children, and young women against violence practiced by men and brothers. Sometimes violence starts on the wedding day and some of the young wives incur violence on the part of one of the family members within their homes. The average age for women who incur violence is of 35 years old. Mixed religious marriages have constituted an insignificant part of the cases of violence since mixed religious marriages constituted 3/40 of the total of the cases and led to problems with the spouse and parents. There are various and different types of violence among which assault and battery to prevent from outlay and to prevent the wife from going out, to threat with divorce, to have sexual intercourse by force with the violated woman, rape attempts and sometimes young women's confinement at home. The true state of violence in Lebanon is contradictory to the stipulations of the universal declaration of human rights, to the international conventions, and on top of them "the declaration concerning the elimination of violence against women" and "the convention on the elimination of all forms of violence against women". The violence exercised against women within and outside their families is still considered as a private matter: to discuss or defame it remains within social prohibitions and it makes the traditional judicial systems impotent to determine this kind of violence and to bring it out from individual and family Scope to the general one in order to render it subject to law. This issue is not discussed in the official circles. Care centers and institutions for women victims of violence are absent and in case they exist, they do not have enough room for these women. The only recourse they have got are certain convents like the good pastor's convents and "hope association" who have undertaken the task of ensuring care for prostitute women.

The cases of violence incurred by women in Lebanon are wide spread among all social classes and categories. The issue is not only related to the economic environment, as we find such cases among the upper-classes of society. It has different aspects so that it becomes comprehensive.

This kind of violence is a result of the distribution of social roles between women and men, which has placed women in the situation of subordination and submission from very long time. The Lebanese penal, civil and personal status laws in effect have established this situation for women. The first obstacle encountered in abolishing violence is probably the absence of preventive laws and judicial and executive systems applying these laws in the absence of civil laws that safeguard women's rights within the family including their right to joint ownership, upbringing and custodianship of their children. Violence against women at home and at work remains a delicate issue. Another obstacle is the absence of governmental programs and policies aiming at women's enablement and enlightenment. The mass media play a crucial role in respect of this issue, especially as far as spreading the concept of democracy and resolving family problems by means of understanding are concerned. One of the major problems encountering the elimination of violence against women is the absence of institutions dedicated for listening to women. As for judicial assistance, it is a voluntary field on the part of the bar association whereas the government doesn't interfere seriously in it.

2- Laws regulating family relations ( personal status ) and violence against women:

In Lebanon, there aren't any laws that regulate family life, whereas the laws in effect don't put forward any positive solutions. In fact, these laws are unfair as far as women are concerned, especially regarding divorce and its consequences, namely custody and alimony. Moreover, there aren't any centers dedicated to receive the victims of violence to protect them. Such centers may constitute a refuge for women who leave their homes. There aren't any law provisions that ensure women's right to their conjugal homes, protect them from being thrown out into the street after their divorce.

The personal status laws that are in effect in Lebanon – among all confessions - encompass different degrees of violence and discrimination against women. In fact, they are away behind the advancing position, on the scientific and professional levels, reached by women in oriental societies in general, and in the Lebanese society in particular. Such laws still confirm the accessory role of women that allows the occurrence of various forms of moral violence against them. Women are still depending on men because of the male power, including but not limited to the acknowledgement of the right to submission to the male spouse: a women is considered disobedient in case she doesn't submit to her husband. The Lebanese laws expressly stipulate that a woman must follow her husband to his place of residence and her refusal may be considered a cause on which basis her husband may divorce her. Such unfair discrimination against women in the personal status laws clearly appears in the law of divorce and the impacts resulting from it. Actually, the consequences of divorce, separation or dissolution of marriage comprise many aspects of injustice towards women that make women, financially or psychologically/ emotionally, unable to liberate themselves from any disastrous situation that they may live in within their families. Such laws consider, for instance, that mothers' role terminates at the end of the suckling period which duration varies from one confession to another. And limiting the age for mothers' custodianship in such a way is one of the major reasons that prevent women victims of violence from taking any measures towards putting an end to their suffering. In a lot of cases, women have preferred to endure all forms of physical and moral violence rather that risk losing their children when the latter are above the age for maternal custody. This issue varies from one confession to another: the age for maternal custody is between 2 and 7 for male children and between 9 and 12 for daughters according to the jurisprudence of each confession.

3- penal law and violence against women:

the Lebanese legislation hasn't tackled the problems of violence against women and home violence in a clear manner. It has been rather concerned with physical harming namely the result of violence. The Lebanese law doesn't protect from such a form of violence, it only punishes those who commit it. The Lebanese penal law applies the principle of crime of harming the others to all the acts that may cause physical violence since it considers physical violence as a form of harming, so that it constitutes a crime in itself that is stipulated for in the penal law, articles 554, 555, 556, 557, 558 and 559. Consequently, the Lebanese penal law lacks specific provisions that vary according to the victim. Furthermore, it needs provisions concerning violence at home incurred by women within their families on the part of their fathers of husbands - physical, sexual and moral violence -, because the Lebanese penal law doesn't comprise articles with respect to violence at home or harming women. On the contrary, it puts women on the same level as the men who are subject to physical harming. The penal law includes, however, provisions regarding some forms of violence in general such as rape, adultery, kidnapping, seducement and immorality (articles 503 to 522). Such lack is considered to be a huge defect in regulating a society in which violence is widespread. Moral and physical forms of violence are the most common forms of violence in Lebanon, since married women are most of the times, more subject to insults and vituperation inside and outside their homes than to battery and physical harm. In fact, insults may affect and harm more than assault. Once more, the penal law doesn't comprise special provisions concerning slander, defamation and vilification incurred by married women, children and domestic servants. Nevertheless, it punishes for such acts in general, through articles 582, 583 and 584, but the punishment is reduced in case such vilification and stander are not committed " in public", which is unfair and doesn't constitute a measure to prevent the occurrence of violence.

A man rarely insults his wife, children or domestic servants in public; he rather does it in private and away from anybody else's right and hearing.

4- The impracticability of applying the law:

As regards instituting legal proceedings:

Through previous experience, women victims of violence rarely bring suit against their husbands. Actually, they hesitate a lot before taking such a measure for many reasons. However, once they overstep the obstacles and undertake the procedure of lodging a complaint against their husbands, they have to take up a great challenge namely the police station where policemen despise these women, play the role of safeguarding these women's family lives or refuse to register the complaint. Thus, women incur another form of violence that destroy them and annihilate the remainder of their dignity and pride.

As regards enforcing the law provisions: the punishment stipulated for in the Lebanese law is severe in the same degree as the damage resulting from the harm. Such damage is determined by a medical examiner's report that may be contested by another medical examiner who is assigned by the court on the perpetrator's demand, in addition to the pressures put on women by the family members and society during the trial. Such reasons drive women to waive the suit as well as their rights and consequently, men's right to practice violence against their relatives is confirmed. As a matter of fact, the Lebanese legislation is very strict regarding the punishment for the murder of the ascendants or descendants (article 549/penal law). Such crimes are punished by death in order to safeguard the sanctity of the family. In the same spirit, the Lebanese legislation must establish a law directly related to violence at home in order to protect the family. There aren't any precautionary measures set forth in the Lebanese law against any person who is likely to practice acts of violence against his family members.

5- The achievements carried out in this field .

Dealing with the issue of violence against women in Lebanon is relatively new, since the fact of putting forth this subject in public started only a few years ago. The most important event in this field was the formation, in 1995, of the first Arab hearing for women victims of violence in Lebanon, within the preparation to the conference of Beijing.

Lebanon's essential participation in the foundation of a women's court known as " the permanent Arab court to resist violence against women" that established its headquarters in Lebanon.

The Lebanese council to resist violence against women was founded in 1997. It has established the first hot line to receive complaints on the part of women subjected to all forms of violence. This council has listened to almost 200 cases up to now, and it has given psychological, legal and Judicial consultations to a number of women. The report issued by the council mentioned the suffering of 92 women among those who have sought refuge with it and such cases were distributed all over the Lebanese regions, among all religious confessions and all social classes in Lebanon.

The democratic women's assembly in Lebanon has founded a center devoted to give advice to some of the women victims of violence.

The Lebanese judicial authorities constitute the most important security for women exposed to violence since various judicial decisions have diminished the strictness of the law texts that are in effect by putting restricted limitations to the forms of chastisement. Furthermore, article 2 of the Lebanese civil procedure law grants the judicial authorities a strong weapon, namely the fact that international conventions govern the national laws in case of controversy.

Some of the officials in the police stations are university graduates and holders of a Bachelor of law and most of them have followed training sessions in the field of human rights so that such policemen became more friendly.

Refuge centers for women victims of violence have been established in Lebanon in some convents, in centers devoted to incest victims and married mothers (from the age of 9 till 18) and centers consecrated for foreign women who work as housemaids. Moreover, some indications show that concern is given to protect prostitutes.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Lebanese NGO Forum, Women's Rights Monitor Project. March 2000. Report on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (Draft of Initial report). [Accessed 11 Dec. 2000]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases

Three sources did not respond to an informationr request

Internet Sites including:

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch



Institute for Women's Studies in the Arab World


Women's International Net

United Nations Population Fund

Sisterhood is Global Institute

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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