How right turns wrong and wrong becomes right is how rape and child marriage intertwine due to law in 2021. Follow Amal to learn more.

She opened the drawer for one last time to get one last glimpse of her dress. It lay there neatly folded covered in white plumerias twinkling its shimmers. She run her fingers on it for a feel and gasped. Tomorrow will be her last day as a boy-child for she will be finally known as the lady of the house. Soon her mom will welcome visitors with sweetened rose drinks and speak only of her best qualities. Like her mother said: “A lady is someone who knows when to take her leave”.

Born the second child and eldest amongst the girls in her family, was in grade ten when she first got her period. How could she forget that day her mother cried and leaped with joy. It was the day she was no longer barren. After waiting so long for her period to come at sixteen, she had given up on having her period. But like her father would always say,: “God is great”. Things just got better from there, Wissam her maternal cousin had asked for her hand on her sixteenths birthday. She truly loved him and was waiting for him to come forward before Rabih her older paternal cousin got back from abroad and claimed her. It was family tradition to marry off their girls to family relatives. After all why should she be any better than her mom who married her maternal cousin- Amal’s dad.

Morning came and the house was soon full of guests. Everything was perfect. The kitchen smelled sweet from various kinds of baklavas freshly baked and milk puddings. In the next room, Layla, Amal’s mom was busy adorning Amal’s hair with fancy bobby pins with white pity-mini roses. “There, your chignon won’t move. Just avoid playing with the curls on the side of your face with your fingers and you will be fine” said Layla. Amal turned to her mom and kissed her but before she could say anything Darine Rabih’s sister walked in and kissed Layla. “Congratulations, auntie. I heard the great news. I’m so glad Rabih and I have returned in time to witness Amal’s ceremony. You know we consider Amal our bride”. Amal looked at her mom for words of defense. “Thank you dear. We weren’t expecting you to arrive so early. It’s just a ceremony to celebrate Amal’s becoming of a young lady. It’s a great blessing. How is Rabih? Asked Layla.

“He is good auntie. He has brought lots of presents for you and the family. We missed you so much and is eager to see his cousin and bride to be” added Darine. With that said Layla signed for Mona to take over and start applying henna on Amal’s hands as she walked Darine out to the salon. Amal took a deep breath and turned to Mona: “Do you think he knows about Wissam that’s why he returned suddenly?” asked Amal. “ I don’t know Ma’am. You know Rabih is a successful businessman. He can afford to go and come whenever he pleases. Either way, the family will take care of this. The habit is, the one who asks first gets the bid for the bride. If they can’t agree, one must concede to the other and usually the elder one wins” said Mona in a bleak tone. Both girls knew Rabih was the older cousin and was very rich and influential. His father was twice head of the municipal council and once governor of their area.

It was time for the big reveal and Layla lit two candles as tall as Amal for Amal to walk between as a resemblance of long life and beauty that will light her life. Amal emerged in her beautiful dress with her tiara as Rabih’s mom circled her with incense fumes singing songs filled with wishes she bloom and lead a happy life surrounded by beautiful children. They sat the guests on three long tables. One was for the men, one for women and another for all the children. It was a joyous day filled with music and dancing and merry laughs. But Amal was worried, Wisam wasn’t among the attendees. She worried that he might have heard of Rabih’s coming and backed out. She was still sinking in her thoughts when Rasha whispered in her ear: “He is on his way but he got stuck finishing his shift. Don’t worry. The only thing that can keep him from you is his death. Smile before they think you are not happy cous”. With that said, Amal smiled and started to sway to the music and got up to dance with the other girls. Soon it was time to receive her gifts, and each guest kissed the young girl and gave her gift which she put aside on the stack of gifts near her. Rabih was before last. He approached her, shook her hand and said: “Congratulations cousin. You look beautiful today as always. I hope you like what I got for you even though there’s nothing on this worthy of you”. Amal smiled and thanked him as she withdrew her shaking hand from him. That man gave her goose bumps. His mere smile scared her. She always felt afraid whenever he was in the room. Known as a womanizer with many relationships, she couldn’t understand why someone like him would even think of a nobody like her. Soon after him Wisam, came forward and kissed her cheek. He held her hand and stood between her and her father and said: “I would like to announce that I have asked my uncle for Amal’s hand. Uncle has given us his blessing and God willing we will wed in June”. Amal’s face beamed as she sighed relief. He saved her and her dad from facing Rabih. Amal’s dad wasn’t ready to stand up against Rabih and had asked that the news comes from Wisam not him. There was a moment of silence in the room until Layla broke it with her loud request for everyone to clap and began to distribute juice. Everything went back merry but with a lower key. The intensity of the situation was heavy, but everyone wanted to remain civil. For now, Amal and Wisam were safe from Rabih’s wrath. Tomorrow will tell more.

 

Two weeks went by after the party and no word was heard from Rabih nor was he seen. The family assumed that he had accepted what had happened. Amal was still going to school as usual and Wisam kept visiting Amal in her parents’ house like any normal newly engaged couple yet never left to be alone with his betrothed. After all, a girl’s reputation is all she has and Amal knew the rules and so did Wisam. All was well until Layla got a call from Darine asking if Amal could join her and Sawsan in shopping from some clothes who was traveling a week later to work in Bahrain. It was customary for female cousins to shop together to discuss color combinations and styles and help carry things. Layla, said she would check with Amal and then get back to Darine later in the evening. In the evening, Layla asked Amal if it was ok to join Darine shopping for Sawsan’s clothing. Amal wasn’t comfortable going because of Rabih but Layla reminded her how Darine, helped her find a dressmaker for her grade nine’s graduation dress. Amal felt indebted and agreed. The next morning Darine’s car was waiting under the balcony of Amal’s house and honked twice. It was a green Honda Civic with tinted glass so you couldn’t see who was inside. Amal opened the door in the back and hopped in expecting Darine and Sawsan to be in front. To her surprise, Sawasan was next to her, Rabih in the driver’s seat, and Darine in the seat next to him. “Morning beautiful said, Rabih. “Morning Amal” said the two girls. “Morning guys where are we going? I have till 4 pm only. After that I have a chemistry test to study for” said Amal in a worried voice. She was nervous and felt uncomfortable. She sat in the car and texted Wisam: “Wisam, am going with Darine, Sawsan, and Rabih to shop clothes for Sawsan. If I am not home by 4 pm come and get me. I will text every now and then”. It was a long day going from shop to shop until they finally made a stop at a dry cleaner outside the suburbs and Sawsan got down. She said she will check the accounts for that dry clean and pick up some papers. Then the car drove with all three to get something to eat. Darine asked Rabih to take them to a restaurant by the seaside so they could relax and enjoy a good meal with a good view. They arrived to the location which was filled with chalets centered around a nice roofed restaurant. Amal stepped out heading to the restaurant but Darine walked ahead and said: “Hey let me show you which chalet Rabih and I booked for the weekend”. Rabih was still in the car and said that he will park the car in the parking and meet them in the restaurant. The two girls walked up to a cozy shalet and Darine had the key. She opened and let them both in. After touring the little chalet, Darine broke Amal’s silence by saying: “Do you know what’s nice about the system they have here cous? “What cous?” asked Amal. “They bring food to you here in the chalet” as she opened the fridge and poured juice for both of them. “Here, sip on this and look at the menu. I will go to the bathroom and call them for our order. Okay?” asked Darine. Amal sipped her juice and Darine head to the bathroom. From there everything went hazy and started to swirl. Moments later, Amal woke up in a pitch dark room sweating in a very moist bed. She fumbled for a bedside lamp and turned it on. She was horrified to find herself naked next to Rabih who was deep asleep. Rabih had raped her and the sheets were stained with blood between her legs. She jumped and wrapped herself with a sheet searching for her clothes screaming. Rabih got up and slapped her. He pushed her back to the bed and put his hand on her mouth and showed her his phone. He had pics of her naked in bed with him. “If I were you, I would break off the engagement and no one would know of this. Otherwise, I will let everyone know that Wisam is marrying an unclean girl and show your pics”. Said Rabih with a smirk. Amal was still shaking but she kneed him between his legs and ran out the room found her clothes and locked him in the room. She got dressed and ran to the restaurant. She used the phone and called him to pick her up. Unaware what time it was. Wisam arrived angry but didn’t say a word. She got in the car and he asked her why she wasn’t picking up her phone. She proceeded to tell him what had happened. He didn’t say a word but drove like a maniac. He dropped her at her parents house. Layla and Fareed were mortified and beat Amal. They blamed her for what had happened. An hour later, Rabih showed up and told Layla: “You took what’s mine and I took it back. You have till morning to either report me and make a scandal for your daughter or meet me in court and marry Amal to me. The choice is yours. I don’t care what happens. I have nothing to lose. Amal was the only pure thing I have left in my life and you took her away. So now this is what you have to deal with”. “You are an animal. How could you live with someone who doesn’t want you. You are thirty five years old. I’m sixteen. Mom, say something. Mom please don’t do this. He raped me mom. Mom, please” begged Amal. Layla looked at Fareed. Fareed turned to Rabih and said :” We will meet you in court tomorrow but you fly tomorrow with Amal as well. Wisam and the family don’t need to know more. This is the family’s honor. I don’t want investigations and police reports. After all, you did this because you want to marry her”. Rabih walked out the door and Fareed shut the door. Amal was about to scream when Fareed took out his belt and began belting Layla and Amal together. He blamed Layla for letting Amal go and Amal for dishonoring him.

In court, the judge asked the consent of Amal via her proxy her dad as she was a virgin and this was her first marriage. Rabih married Amal and took her to his place in the United Arab Emirates. Wisam was never heard of after the family got news that Amal was pregnant with Rabih’s baby a month later. Amal’s life abroad was pure hell. Rabih was an abusive man who would beat her in the day and use her in the night. He also had the habit of partying on weekends with his colleagues. He would lock Amal without a phone in the house, keeping her without a passport or money. She was his prisoner. Everyday as her tummy would grow she would wish to die. One day, Rabih got home drunk and got mad at Amal who was eight months pregnant, and chased her to the bathroom and threw her across the bathroom with slaps. She landed with her tummy on the edge of the tub and she screamed with pain. A neighbor heard her screams from the bathroom window and called the police. The police took Rabih away for domestic abuse and Amal was rushed to the emergency room for urgent surgery to save her and her babies. Amal gave birth to twins and was sent to Lebanon. Rabih was extradited to Lebanon. He wasn’t charged with domestic violence. Amal filed for divorce and was granted her divorce but the court ruled that the children be given to their father. After five years of fighting for visitation rights in vain, Amal went to see her children, she snuck to see her kids and give them one last embrace. Darine reported her to Rabih who followed Amal one day from work. He closed on her with his car and the kids were in the car. Amal was afraid he would have an accident and endanger her kids. He asked her to get in. He took her and the kids to a secluded area and beat her with his belt then shot her close range in the head in front of their children. Later in the evening he dropped her lifeless body in front of a hospital. The story made headlines. Rabih was released on allegations that he caught his wife in bed with someone. Today, the law that decreases charges on husbands for murder of their spouses has been repealed but the law that exonerates a rapist if he marries his victim still stands in other sections of the same law.

In the honor of Amal’s death and the many Amal’s the Lebanese society has her sister Nariman recited this poem:

Ding dong rape is wrong what a tale!

Be strong to right wrong even if you are frail. Ding Dong radicalism and tradition derail justice and humanity from a society in detail.

Ding dong white veils don’t veil vile acts like rape in laws so shale.

Ding dong new laws still fail

to protect a female’s dignity from a male.

Ding Dong article 522’s gale

blows throughout 505 & 518 blocking jail.

Ding Dong males still get bail

if they veil within a year a minor female. Someone must’ve had too much ale!

Real change must erase the past’s trail. For its laws’ logic is an epic fail

Ding Dong stone age practices still prevail!

 

 

Author’s Notes:

After continuous campaigns and rallies from leading human rights organizations like “Kafa” and the support of the Human Rights Watch; Lebanon celebrated the repeal of article 522 of the Lebanese Penal Code which states the following:

If a valid marriage is concluded between an offender of the following crimes ( rape and kidnapping for marriage) and the victim of any of these crimes all pursuits shall be halted and if a ruling on the case takes place then the sentence’s execution shall be halted.

Meanwhile Articles 505 and 518 indicate that all pursuits and trials shall be halted regarding whoever commits statutory rape if a valid marriage is concluded between the offender and the victim who is within the age group of 15 and 18 years old.

There are also repercussions for this legal gap within the Lebanese Sectarian legal system for every sect in Lebanon has its own personal law with a definition of what is a minor and what is not a minor in terms of a subject that can consent for a marriage. This complication shows within sects that allow girls as young as 13 and 14 to be considered as consenting adults which leads to the full application of the repealed article of 522 under the mask of a truly valid and consensual marriage not even a rape!

This is a real tragedy in 2021!!

#womensrights #childrensrights #accesstojustice 


Submitted: March 06, 2021

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