Nearly a year after it helped abolish a law that protected rapists in Lebanon, non-profit organization ABAAD is back with a new campaign, revealing the intensity of victim-blaming across the country.
The campaign, titled "Men El Felten?" which is Arabic for "Shame on Who?," aims to toughen sanctions against rapists in the country and to change social perceptions that "stigmatize and shame female rape victims, pushing them to cover up the crime."
"It also aims to create a supportive public opinion that condemns the act of rape as a crime punishable by a deterrent punishment’" said Ghida Anani, Founder & Director of ABAAD, in a statement.
"We urge female rape victims to exercise their rights, by raising their voices and reporting the rapists/criminals, seeking retribution and bringing them to justice" she added.
The campaign was launched on the occasion of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence 2018 and was done in partnership with the Office of the Minister of State For Women Affairs and the National Commission for Lebanese Women.
The video campaign was the result of a social experiment conducted in various areas across Lebanon. The experiment sought to observe the reactions of people upon learning a woman - named Manal - was raped and left stranded in the streets.
Manal played the role of a rape victim in the experiment, however, the reactions filmed were not staged.
"Are you on drugs," one man can be heard saying in the video, completely dismissing the woman's story.
Unfortunately, the majority of the reactions from people resorted to victim-blaming and shaming. The experiment does not fail to reflect the reality of things in Lebanon when it comes to rape cases.
"My sister would never dress like that," another man can be heard saying.
The campaign saw outpouring support from social media users
SHAME ON WHO: "Shame on you for actually judging a RAPE victim"
Repeat: "Judge the rapist, not the victim"
"Our society is garbage"
"Why do people think all survivors of sexual violence are liars?"
"Nothing we wear or even not wear is an invitation to harassment"
"The sad truth"
"Men rape women, NOT outfits"
1 in 4 women in Lebanon are subject to sexual assault
According to ABAAD, 1 in 4 women in Lebanon are subject to sexual assault.
Of those, 49 percent are committed by close family members. In 2017, the Lebanese organization launched a campaign in support of victims of incestuous rape in the country. The sentence for such cases in Lebanon amounts to roughly five years.
Unfortunately, reported cases of sexual assault remain incredibly low. According to statistics, only 13 women per month report sexual assault in Lebanon.
A national survey conducted by ABAAD in 2017 revealed that 80 percent of women in Lebanon "believe that social and cultural beliefs justify sexual assault and violence against women and girls."
"We call on citizens to unite and put pressure on government officials, by demanding increased punishment for perpetrators of rape and sexual violence, and to direct the blame on the perpetrator rather than the survivor," the organization said.
Lebanon abolished a law that protected rapists ... in 2017
In August 2017, Lebanon's Parliament repealed Article 522 of the Lebanese penal code, which dismissed rape charges if a rapist marries his victim.
This came after continuous efforts made by activists, including ABAAD, who launched a massive and haunting awareness campaign to bring the controversial rape law to an end.
In 2016, campaigners at ABAAD made an appearance at the House of Parliament in an effort to encourage lawmakers to abolish the law. Lebanese MP Ghassan Moukheiber said at the time that Parliament has been working to put forward an amendment to the article.
But, ABAAD rejected any modification to Article 522, and demanded the law be abolished altogether.