A landmark trial for sexual harassment will start in Beirut on Thursday, the primary since a Lebanese law criminalised the behaviour final 12 months.
Beneath the brand new laws, 5 girls introduced complaints in Could towards Lebanese movie director and journalist Jaafar Al Attar, who they accuse of “serial harassment”.
Their testimonies went viral on social media, prompting a nationwide outcry and a police investigation.
Plaintiffs and activists hope the case will set a precedent in a rustic the place they are saying impunity for harassment has lengthy been the norm.
“We wish to change the mindset in order that victims really feel empowered to talk up,” stated Ayman Raad, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs.
“We additionally hope to alter society’s outlook on these behaviours, so that individuals realise this isn’t flirting, it’s sexual harassment.”
The accusations drew nationwide consideration when actress Tracy Younes posted screenshots on Instagram she stated confirmed their conversations, together with the handfuls of messages, late-night calls and selfies. Younes’ Instagram story was shared hundreds of instances.
Quickly after, extra girls got here ahead with claims of sexual harassment, lewd texting and pictures. One girl accused Al Attar of rape and one other of sexual assault.
Al Attar denies all of the claims and has stated his actions represent “an annoyance” relatively than abuse.
After the ladies spoke to native media, the police contacted them to open an investigation, Mr Raad stated.
Primarily based on their testimonies, the overall prosecution determined to press expenses for sexual harassment and transfer ahead with the case. Al Attar faces as much as one 12 months in jail if convicted. The Common Prosecution has not pursued expenses for the accusations of sexual assault or rape.
Alia Awada, co-director of Fe-Male, a distinguished feminist group in Lebanon, is optimistic about Thursday’s trial.
She stated the general public curiosity within the case helped to open a dialog about sexual harassment in Lebanon and introduced hope that harassers is likely to be held accountable for his or her actions.
“This can be a check for the sexual harassment regulation,” Ms Awada stated. “We hope that harasser might be punished to the extent of their crimes.”
A 2017 UN survey discovered 60 per cent of Lebanese girls reported experiencing incidents of sexual harassment, a problem that activists say is prevalent due to a tradition of impunity caused by a scarcity of authorized protections and laws for victims.
Human Rights Watch this 12 months described sexual harassment as “a widespread drawback in Lebanon”.
Lebanon’s new regulation criminalising harassment, handed in December, defines it as a “unfavorable behaviour” of a sexual nature that will or is probably not repeated, and targets victims of all genders. It additionally consists of pressuring folks to carry out sexual acts towards their will.
Harassers face a minimal jail sentence of 1 month and as much as 4 years in jail, with repeat offenders dealing with phrases double the size of their earlier sentence.
Journalist Luna Safwan, considered one of Al Attar’s alleged victims, stated the response from authorities has stunned her.
“There’s a stigma round harassment, so the truth that the judiciary determined to consider us – it means rather a lot to me,” Safwan stated. “I felt like I’m heard as a lady.
“This provides me a bit of glimpse of hope that perhaps, in the future, we’ll cease robotically assuming that wrong-doers will all the time get away with their crimes in Lebanon.”
Up to date: November tenth 2021, 12:52 PM