On October 11, 2017 The Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering- RDFL launched its national media campaign against child marriage entitled “#NotBefore18 during a press conference held in the Beirut House of the lawyer. The conference was attended by Mr. Jean Oghasapian, the Minister of State for Women’s Affairs, Ms. Claudine Aoun Rokouz, president of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, former Minister Wafaa Al Dika Hamza, deputy Elie Kayrouz, lawyer Lara Saadeh on behalf of Deputy Sami Jmayel, Lawyer Elizabeth Al Siofi on behalf of Minister of Human Rights Ayman Shkeir, representative of the French ambassador in Lebanon, representative of the Ambassador Christina Lassen, head of the delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, in addition to a number of journalists, reporters, artists, actors, actresses, and representatives of international, political, women’s rights, and civil organizations.
The conference was opened with a speech by the president of The Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering- RDFL, Ms. Laila Mrouwe, who pointed to the prevalence of the forced marriage especially in the rural areas. She also explained that the term "forced marriage" should be used instead of "early marriage" because the marriage decision was taken by another party who gave himself the right to choose instead of her since a girl at this age does not have the intellectual, legal, psychological and health abilities that qualify her to choose freely and consciously. In response to some claims that a girl aged 15, 16 or 17 is not a child and can be married if she wishes, she said that as long as this girl cannot do any legal act of her own, such as having a driving license for example. Therefore, we can’t rely on her desire to engage and get married as a justification for marriage because of the lack of eligibility of the girl and the serious complications that can be left by this step. She added that any girl under the age of 18, even by one day, is still considered a child and has the full right to legal protection from early marriage.
She said in her speech that RDFL worked on preparing a draft law for the "Protection of Children from Early Marriage Law" in cooperation with a group of judges and lawyers. It was adopted by Deputy Elie Kayrouz and presented to the parliement in March 2017. Unfortunately, president Nabih Berri refrained to transfer the law to the parliamentary committee concerned in reviewing it. Mrouwe ended her speech by stressing that the right of women to full equality is not negotiable and that the state is the first and only reference to protect and guarantee the rights of its citizens without any distinction or political and doctrinal considerations.
From her part, Ms. Claudine Aoun Roquez, president of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, stressed that the marriage of underage girls has multiple serious consequences, both physically and psychologically, as well as the negative social repercussions both on the individual and the family level and on the level of society as a whole. She added that forced marriage is considered a form of trafficking in human beings and causes a sexual exploitation to the body of a young girl. Ms. Aoun Roquez said that the NCLW, in cooperation with the Minister of State for Women Affairs and civil society organizations, decided to pursue the dialogue with the religious leaders to try to convince them to set a unified minimum age of marriage which is 18 years for men and women alike, conduct national awareness campaigns to warn against the dangers of forced marriage and to urge the legislative authority to approve the law prohibiting the marriage of children.
The conference was concluded with Ms. Hayat Mirshad's speech, head of media department at RDFL where she pointed out that the launch of the media campaign on October 11 coincides with the International Day of Girls, considering the importance of the elimination of child marriage as one of the most important priorities of many organizations and countries due to its negative impact on girls by placing them under stress and physical, psychological and social risks that they are not ready to confront. Ms. Mirshed mentioned that the campaign focuses on the health risks of child marriage, which could threaten the lives of the girls and the life of the fetus whereas before the age of 18, the body is not fully developed, the uterus is immature and the pelvis is not ready for pregnancy leaving multiple health complications. At the end of the conference, Mirshad presented the various media campaign materials as well as the supporting messages that demand to determine the age of marriage in Lebanon by a number of media professionals, artists, clerics and influencers from all fields.
You can read the article on the website of the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering- RDFL