Interview: Women Unequal Under Lebanon’s Laws

Photo © 2013 Reuters/Jamal Saidi

When Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire – before it was even a country – its religious groups were allowed to oversee the equivalent of family law. French colonizers upheld this system, and today Lebanon has 15 different codes – for Sunni, Shia, Druze, Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical groups and others – governing divorce, child custody, and the financial rights of spouses during and after marriage.

Each group is treated differently, but members of one group in particular – women – suffer discrimination across all religious groups.

For three years, a team of researchers, including the Human Rights Watch Lebanon and Syria researcher Lama Fakih, poured over 450 legal cases and interviewed 70 people to examine the discriminatory nature of these personal status laws and the courts that implement them for a new report, Unequal and Unprotected. Fakih speaks about what, in practice, this system means for Lebanon’s women.

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