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In Lebanon, a law absolves a rapist of his crime if he marries his victim. Artist Mireille Honein teamed up with activists to stage a visually stunning protest of 31 wedding dresses hanging from nooses in Beirut to send the message that such legislation is barbaric and misogynistic, and won’t be accepted by the Lebanese.
“Article 522 of Lebanon’s Penal Code stops prosecution or execution of a penalty when the perpetrator of a rape, kidnapping, or statutory rape marries the person he has raped or kidnapped,” notes activist group, Equality Now. The same organization points out that Article Seven of the Constitution of Lebanon states that “all Lebanese shall be equal before the law.” Such hypocrisy fueled what the BBC called a “macabre protest” on Beirut’s sea front, Ain el Mraysseh. Article 522 has been at the forefront of feminist activists in Beirut for some time. The group Abaad staged a protest in December, 2016 with activists dressed as brides (pictured above).
The latest protest art is entitled “Undress 522,” and Honein, an artist whose work on women and the body was selected for the Women in Art exhibition to be held at the Muse de France in 2019, is an ideal artist to bring attention to the repealing of Article 522. According to BBC, Honein went on record with the Agence France Press saying that Article 522 had left women “without an identity” and was “shameful for those imposing it on them.”
“Undress 522” is up for appeal by the Lebanese government on May 15. In February, a proposal to remove Article 522 was approved by a parliamentary committee. The Minister for Women’s Affairs Jean Oghassabian spoke at the launch of the exhibition, called the law “from the stone age,” according to BBC.
“There are 31 days in a month and every single day, a woman may be raped and forced to marry her rapist,” Alia Awada from Abaad tells BBC.
As Lebanese citizens await the vote on Article 522, such protest art, mixing the beautiful with the ghastly, shows the people will not wait in silence.