BEIRUT — The head of Beirut Bar Association, Nader Gaspar, drew criticism on social media Friday for remarks he made during a Thursday symposium on domestic violence in Lebanon.
Gaspar said family members could use domestic violence law "with the intent to harm and benefit from false allegations." He implied the law could be used by women wielding false allegations to secure “gains and sums [of money].”
The symposium was organized by the Personal Status Modernization Committee in the Beirut Bar Association (BBA).
"The issue of domestic violence is one of the most serious issues in the relationship between members of the same family," Gaspar said, according to the statement released by the BBA. "What prevents one person from 'bullying' the other by claiming that they were beaten, kicked, or pushed? …What prevents them from stabbing themselves or hitting their heads against the wall and saying that they are being beaten?"
Lebanese journalist Diana Moukalled took to Twitter to respond, describing Gaspar’s comments as "an approach that literally takes us back centuries."
"Gaspar approaches the issue of freedom of expression and women's rights from an angle that suits repressive, patriarchal regimes," Moukalled added.
Means to verify abuse are 'very clear'
Lebanon’s domestic violence law was first passed in 2014.
While the law was hailed as an achievement for women’s rights, advocates said it left major gaps and have since been pushing to remedy them. Some amendments were passed in 2020 to this effect.
On Thursday, Gaspar argued that the law on domestic violence might "give justifications" to family members to set up "schemes."
"We get complaints that the father molested his daughter,” Gaspar alleged. “All of this is done with the intent of harming and benefiting from these false allegations, in order for the woman to garner gains and sums [of money] that she would not have obtained if she had contented herself with presenting the facts of a normal relationship with her husband."
L'Orient Today reached out to Gaspar for comment, but he was not immediately available.
Hayat Mirshad, co-founder of feminist collective FE-MALE and editor-in-chief of feminist platform Sharika wa Laken, told L'Orient Today that Gaspar's statements were "very regrettable."
"This is not the first time the BBA, which is supposed to have just arguments, releases a patriarchal statement."
"It's not true that [domestic violence] law could be a means for bullying," Mirshad continued.
"We all know that, in the law of domestic violence, proof means are very clear. Unless women have proof and witnesses, such as a forensic doctor, women are not granted protection from the court," she explained. "I haven't had any woman seek our help without any proof."
Mirshad said talking about domestic violence in Lebanon is not an easy ordeal for women.
"It might expose her to stigma or people might blame her for the abuse she received — so women decide to report domestic violence mostly when they reach advanced levels of domestic violence," she said.
"And we have encountered such cases many times."
Mirshad also pointed out that Gaspar's comments seemed to suggest that he believes domestic violence is a "private matter." She said this is the main reason behind the aggravation of the domestic violence phenomenon.
"The issue of domestic violence should become a public and political matter, not matters to be solved behind closed doors," Mirshad added. "Lawyers and judges have a very essential role in this issue."
'We shouldn't be surprised'
On Saturday, a Lebanese man from Baalbeck in the Bekaa valley allegedly killed his 26-year-old wife by shooting her 10 times, an Internal Security Forces source confirmed to L'Orient Today.
According to local media, the murder took place after the husband found intimate photos of his wife on her phone. Ali Zaiter, the mayor of Hadath-Baalbeck, from which the suspect hails, confirmed to L'Orient Today that her murder was a so-called "honor killing."
"Honor killing" is a term often used for murders carried out in reaction to behaviors perceived by some people as having brought dishonor to a family. The vast majority of honor killing victims are women.
Following the killing of his wife, the man reportedly fled with the couple's children.
"It is very important to remind the head of the Bar Association that many women are still being killed till this day," Mirshad said. "We expected the voice of the Bar Association to amplify those of women and to be strict in the files of killing women due to domestic violence ... instead of doubting women or blaming them for the abuse they were subjected to."
Women’s rights associations denounced an “unprecedented” degree of recent violence.
On Feb. 28, a retired member of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces killed his ex-wife with a hunting rifle in Tripoli, North Lebanon.
In August, Hanaa Khodr, 21, mother of two children and five months pregnant at the time, was beaten and burned alive by her husband.
That same month, Ghinwa Alawi, a mother of three from Akkar, tried to end her life after years of alleged domestic violence. A few days earlier, her husband had filmed her as he beat her. He sent the video to his in-laws.
"We shouldn't be surprised that [men] still escape justice," Mirshad argued, considering the misogynistic and patriarchal culture in Lebanon.
"We shouldn't be surprised when a big number of women are subjected to injustice from lawyers and judges."
Gaspar said family members could use domestic violence law "with the intent to harm and benefit from false allegations." He implied the law could be used by women wielding false allegations to secure “gains and sums...