Activists Monday decried a proposed draft law on child marriage that proposes judges approve requests for marrying off underage children, saying it does not do enough to guarantee their safety.
The Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering said that people under the age of 18 in Lebanon should not be allowed to get married, in accordance with international commitments.
“This [proposed] law does not constitute a profound change,” Caroline Succar, LWDG vice president, told The Daily Star. “Child marriage is a practice that borders on prostitution and sexual exploitation.”
The group added that they would oppose any proposal that allows underage individuals to get married in Lebanon, regardless of nationality or sect.
Rita Chemaly, a project development consultant at the National Commission for Lebanese Women, said the organization will keep lobbying in favor of its own draft law that raises the age of marriage to 18.
However, MP Ghassan Moukheiber said the draft law he presented to the Women and Children’s Committee in Parliament was jointly written with the official National Women’s Council following extensive research.
“We are [protecting minors from early marriages] without affecting religious norms concerning the minimum age – for example, for the Shiites the minimum age is 9 while for the Orthodox it is 16,” Moukheiber told The Daily Star.
Currently, Lebanon has no minimum age of marriage that applies universally. Rather, different sects are governed by their own personal status laws.
Monday’s statement from the LDGW comes a week after the Women and Children’s Committee tasked a group of experts to reach out to religious figures regarding the matter. Aspects of Moukheiber’s draft law reflect “discretion and exemptions on the subject of child marriage, and not prevention,” the statement said.
Article 2 of Moukheiber’s draft law would allow a legal guardian to file a request with the relevant judiciary to approve the marriage of a minor, girl or boy, the statement said.
The LDGW will make their own proposal to Parliament that they say has been put together by a group of legal experts.