Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape. While the government effectively enforced the law, its interpretation by religious courts precluded full implementation of civil law in all provinces. Rape and domestic violence were underreported. The minimum prison sentence for a person convicted of rape is five years, or seven years for raping a minor. According to the penal code, the state would not prosecute a rapist and would nullify his conviction if the rapist married his victim. The law does not criminalize spousal rape. According to the domestic NGO Enough Violence and Exploitation (KAFA), 80 percent of domestic-violence victims the NGO assisted suffered spousal rape.
During the year husbands killed a number of women in domestic violence cases. On August 22, Prosecutor General Samir Hammoud appealed a five-year sentence handed down to Mohammad Nhaily for beating his wife, Manal Assi, to death in 2014. On July 14, the criminal court gave Nhaily a mitigated sentence based on the penal code, which allows for reduced punishment if a crime occurred as a result of extreme outrage caused by “dangerous and wrongful action committed by the victim.” Hammoud rejected this argument, saying that the criminal court misinterpreted and wrongly implemented the language of the penal code.
The law criminalizes domestic violence, but it does not specifically provide protection for women. The law does not criminalize spousal rape but rather the use of threats or violence to claim a “marital right to intercourse,” and it does not criminalize the nonconsensual violation of physical integrity. The maximum sentence under this law is 25 years’ imprisonment if one of the spouses commits homicide.
A 2010 UN Population Fund (UNFPA) assessment estimated there were high rates of domestic violence in the country. Despite a law that sets a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for battery, some religious courts may legally require a battered wife to return to her home despite physical abuse. Foreign domestic workers, usually women, often were mistreated, abused, and in some cases raped or placed in slavery-like conditions. Some police, especially in rural areas, treated domestic violence as a social, rather than criminal, matter.
The government provided legal assistance to domestic violence victims who could not afford it, and police response to complaints submitted by battered or abused women improved. The NGOs Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women and KAFA offered counseling and legal aid and raised awareness about the problem. During the year KAFA assisted victims in 538 cases of violence, the majority of which concerned domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but authorities did not enforce the law effectively, and it remained a widespread problem. According to the UNFPA, the labor law does not explicitly prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace; it merely gives a male or female employee the right to resign without prior notice from his or her position in the event that an indecent offense is committed towards the employee or a family member by the employer or his or her representative, without any legal consequences for the perpetrator. The penal code and the criminal procedure cite legal consequences.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
Some women in rural areas faced social pressure on their reproductive choices due to long-held conservative values. According to 2015 estimates from the UNFPA, while 63 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 used contraceptives, only 40 percent used a modern method. While there was no reliable data on the contraceptive prevalence rate for Syrian refugees, the UNFPA supported a study to assess the unmet need in family planning and estimated the rate as well as family planning requirements among the Syrians in the country for the next three to four years. A study carried out in 2013-14 by the UNFPA and partners among a sample of 1,000 Syrian displaced youth estimated that while 45 percent of youth knew about contraceptive methods, 39 percent of those surveyed thought that contraceptives should not be used. Of those who have had children since arriving in the country, 41 percent did not intend to have more children but were not using any form of contraception.
Discrimination: Women suffered discrimination under the law and in practice. Social pressure against women pursuing some careers was strong in some parts of society. Men sometimes exercised considerable control over female relatives, restricting their activities outside the home or their contact with friends and relatives. In matters of child custody, inheritance, and divorce, personal status laws provide unequal treatment across the various confessional court systems but generally discriminate against women. For example, Sunni civil courts applied an inheritance law that provides a son twice the inheritance of a daughter. Religious law on child custody matters favors the father in most instances. Nationality law also discriminates against women, who may not confer citizenship to their spouses and children, although widows may confer citizenship to their minor children. By law women may own property, but they often ceded control of it to male relatives due to cultural reasons and family pressure.
The law provides for equal pay for equal work for men and women, but in the private sector there was discrimination regarding the provision of benefits. Only 26 percent of women, compared with 76 percent of men, were in the formal labor force, and these women earned on average 61 percent of what men earned for comparable work.
The Women’s Affairs Division in the Ministry of Social Affairs undertook some projects to address sexual or gender-based violence, such as providing counseling and shelter for victims and training ISF personnel to combat violence in prisons.
The National Commission for Lebanese Women is the highest governmental body addressing women’s issues.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived exclusively from the father, which may result in statelessness for children of a citizen mother and noncitizen father who may not transmit his own citizenship (see section 2.d.). If a child’s birth is not registered within the first year, the process for legitimizing the birth is long and costly, often deterring families from registration. Syrian refugees faced numerous challenges registering their births because of the country’s complicated registration system. Authorities did not permit refugees without valid residency papers to register their child’s birth, preventing them from obtaining necessary documents for passports.
Some refugee children and the children of foreign domestic workers also faced obstacles to equal treatment under the law. NGOs reported discrimination against them, although some could attend public school.
Education: Education for citizens is free and compulsory through the primary phase. Noncitizen children, including those born of noncitizen fathers and citizen mothers and refugees, lack this right. Certain public schools had quotas for noncitizen children, but there were no special provisions for children of female citizens, and spaces remained subject to availability. Boys and girls had nearly equal rates of primary education, with women outnumbering men in secondary and tertiary education. Authorities permitted Syrian refugee children to enroll in public schools; the Ministry of Education and Higher Education facilitated the enrollment of more than 157,000 Syrian students in public schools in the 2015-16 academic year, and enrollment continued at year’s end. UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education accelerated learning program continued during the year, enrolling more than 11,000 students in remedial classes to be grade-level ready for formal enrollment as of May. The ministry did not recognize informal education, limiting the number of opportunities for refugee children to receive accredited education or a pathway to enroll once they achieved grade-level proficiency.
Child Abuse: According to a 2012 study by KAFA in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs, more than 885,000 children were victims of psychological abuse, of whom 738,000 were also victims of physical abuse and 219,000 were victims of sexual abuse. The Ministry of Social Affairs had a hotline to report cases of child abuse.
Syrian refugee children were vulnerable to child labor and exploitation.
Children reportedly joined local gangs engaged in sectarian violence in the northern part of the country.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 for men and 17 for women. Confessionally determined personal status law governs family matters, and minimum ages acceptable for marriage differ accordingly. UNHCR reported early and forced marriage was common in the Syrian refugee community. According to a study conducted by the Heartland Alliance in 2014, the marriages were not official but usually endorsed by sheikhs in the refugee community, often encouraged with a bribe. These sheikhs were not linked to the country’s Sunni family courts, and the marriages had no legal standing.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penal code prohibits and punishes commercial sexual exploitation, child pornography, and forced prostitution. Prescribed punishment for commercial sexual exploitation of a person under age 21 is imprisonment for one month to one year and fines between 50,000 and 500,000 Lebanese pounds ($33 and $333). The maximum sentence for commercial sexual exploitation is two years’ imprisonment. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18, and statutory rape penalties include hard labor for a minimum of five years and a minimum of seven years’ imprisonment if the victim is younger than 15. Imprisonment ranges from two months to two years if the victim is between ages 15 and 18. The government generally enforced the law. As of August 31, the ISF investigated 15 cases of human trafficking involving nine victims of sexual exploitation and referred them to the judiciary. On March 27 and 29, the ISF broke up a sex trafficking ring, which exploited primarily 45 Syrian women and girls in Beirut and arrested 16 perpetrators involved in the ring. In 2015 the DGS investigated 52 suspected cases of trafficking involving nonpayment of wages, physical abuse, and rape or sexual abuse. Additionally, the Ministry of Justice reported investigating 93 suspected traffickers, of which the government charged and prosecuted 71 under the antitrafficking law. Authorities found 33 of these offenders guilty of trafficking and referred them to the courts for trial. The cases involved forced labor, forced child street begging, and sex trafficking.
Displaced Children: The Ministry of Education and Higher Education opened 200,000 places in the public school system to Syrian refugee children in the 2015-16 academic year. As of November 2015, 157,000 Syrian refugee children had enrolled in public schools. NGOs often used informal education to assist students not performing at grade-level, but the ministry opposed nonformal education, which limited access to education for refugees and prompted many NGOs to terminate programs.
Some refugee children lived and worked on the street. Given the poor economic environment, limited freedom of movement, and little opportunity for livelihoods for adults, many Syrian refugee families relied on children to be able to earn money for the family. Refugee children were at greater risk of exploitation and child labor, since they had greater freedom of movement compared to their parents, who often lacked residency permits.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
At year’s end there were approximately 100 Jews living in the country and six thousand registered Jewish voters who lived abroad but had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.
The Jewish Community Council reported that acts of vandalism against the cemetery in Beirut continued during the year. Vandals also threw construction rubble and trash into the cemetery. The council reported the abuse to the security forces, but authorities took no action. Rooms, shops, and a gas station were built on the land of the Jewish cemetery in Tripoli, and a lawsuit was filed; however, authorities took no action by year’s end.
The national school curriculum materials did not contain materials on the Holocaust.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
Although prohibited by law, discrimination against persons with disabilities continued. Employment law defines a “disability” as a physical, sight, hearing, or mental disability. The law stipulates that persons with disabilities fill at least 3 percent of all government and private-sector positions, provided such persons fulfill the qualifications for the position; however, no evidence indicated the government enforced the law. Employers are legally exempt from penalties if they provide evidence no otherwise qualified person with disabilities applied for employment within three months of advertisement. The law mandates access to buildings by persons with disabilities, but the government failed to amend building codes. Many persons with mental disabilities received care in private institutions, several of which the government subsidized.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and the National Council of Disabled is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. According to the president of the Arab Organization of Disabled People, little progress had occurred since parliament passed the law on disabilities in 2000. Approximately 100 relatively active but poorly funded private organizations provided most of the assistance received by persons with disabilities.
Depending on the type and nature of the disability, children with a disability may attend mainstream school. Due to a lack of awareness or knowledge, school staff often did not identify a specific disability in children and could not adequately advise parents. In such cases children often repeated classes or dropped out of school.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education stipulates for new school building construction: “Schools should include all necessary facilities in order to receive the physically challenged.” Nonetheless, the public school system was ill-equipped to accommodate students with disabilities. Problems included a poor regulatory framework; poor infrastructure that was not accessible to persons with disabilities; curricula that did not include material to assist children with disabilities; laboratories and workshops that lacked the equipment required for children with disabilities; laboratories that lacked space and access for persons with disabilities, especially those using wheelchairs; teaching media and tools that relied increasingly on computers and audiovisual material that were not accessible to students with disabilities, including students who were blind, deaf, and those with physical disabilities; and a lack of accessible transportation to and from schools.
Some NGOs (often managed by religious entities) offered education and health services for children with disabilities. The Ministry of Social Affairs contributed to the cost, although the ministry often delayed payments to the organizations. According to the ministry, it supported school attendance, vocational training, and rehabilitation for approximately eight thousand persons in 2014.
In the May municipal elections, access for persons with disabilities and older persons was a significant issue. Most polling centers had multiple floors with no elevators. ISF officers helped, and at times carried, some voters with disabilities into the polling stations. Some voting booths were on elevated levels, and some voters required assistance to reach the elevated polling booths.
Lebanese of African descent attributed discrimination to the color of their skin and claimed harassment by police, who periodically demanded to see their papers. Foreign Arab, African, and Asian students, professionals, and tourists reported being denied access to bars, clubs, restaurants, and private beaches.
Syrian workers, usually employed as manual laborers and construction workers, continued to suffer discrimination, as they did following the 2005 withdrawal of Syrian forces from the country. Many municipalities enforced a curfew on Syrians’ movements in their neighborhoods in an effort to curb an increased number of robberies and to control security.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Official and societal discrimination against LGBTI persons persisted. There is no all-encompassing antidiscrimination law to protect LGBTI persons. The law prohibits “unnatural sexual intercourse,” an offense punishable by up to one year in prison but rarely applied; however, it often resulted in a fine. The Ministry of Justice did not keep records on these infractions. Enforcement of the law varied and often occurred through occasional police arrests. There were, however, no reports authorities imprisoned anyone for violation of this law during the year.
Various NGOs, including Helem, Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE), LebMash, and Marsa, hosted regular meetings in a safe house, provided counseling services, and carried out advocacy projects for the LGBTI community.
The government did not collect information on official or private discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or lack of access to education or health care based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and individuals who faced problems were reluctant to report incidents due to fear of additional discrimination. There were no government efforts to address potential discrimination.
NGOs claimed LGBTI persons underreported incidents of violence and abuse due to negative social stereotypes. Observers received reports from LGBTI refugees of physical abuse by local gangs, which the victims did not report to the ISF. Observers referred victims to UNHCR-sponsored protective services. There was one confirmed case of a man who was physically abused and threatened with death by throwing him from the third floor of a building in Beirut because of his LGBTI status. It was unclear if the perpetrator was a family member or an acquaintance.
A local NGO report on Lebanese attitudes towards LGBTI found clear instances of negative stereotypes, rejection, and, although to a lesser extent, readiness for violence.
Most reports of abuse came from transgender women. This circumstance was highlighted by graphic accounts of transwomen’s testimonies in the “Transpowerment” project implemented by AFE and Marsa. The project highlighted that transgender women faced employment discrimination due to the inconsistency between official documentation and gender self-presentation, which rendered personnel paperwork practically impossible due to constraints related to social security registration, payroll, and opening bank accounts.
In September 2015 the Court of Appeals granted a transgender man the right to rectify his legal status in the civil registry after taking into account his psychological, sexual, moral, and social status.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
HIV/AIDS is stigmatized due to sensitivities about extramarital relations. Few who contracted the disease did so in the course of homosexual relations, which are also taboo. The main challenge facing AIDS patients, in addition to stigma and discrimination, was that many were unable to pay for regular follow-up tests that the Ministry of Public Health does not cover. The law requires the government to offer treatment to all residents who are AIDS patients rather than deporting foreigners who carry the disease.
NGOs such as Marsa, Soins Infirmiers et Developpement Communautaire, and Vivre Positif offered free testing services to HIV patients. According to Marsa, patients that tested positive for HIV risked losing their medical insurance–and in some cases their jobs–because of the stigma surrounding the disease. Patients were often reluctant to test themselves because the test gives rise to fear of infection and social stigma.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
As in previous years, there were reports of incidents of societal violence and interreligious strife. Observers reported Shia militias, most notably Hizballah, harassed unfamiliar refugees entering territories under their control. The rise of Da’esh, Nusra, and other extremist groups led to repeated fighting between the LAF and these groups. Political leaders across the country condemned the action of extremist groups.