“Civil marriage is a civil right” : confronting the “right to marry” to Lebanon’s normative pluralism is a growing sectarian environment

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Mardam Bey, Soulayma
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In Lebanon, family laws from marriage to its termination depend on one’s sectarian affiliation, which is itself inherited from the father. Eighteen communities are officially recognised by the state and fifteen personal status laws applied within the same territory are submitting people, especially women, to unequal treatment. The inexistence of an optional civil law for interfaith couples or couples who don’t want to marry religiously goes against freedom of conscience. Such a system contributes to favour sectarian allegiance at the detriment of both national and individual identity. The community becomes the structuring element of society. While many pinpoint the responsibility of the Ottoman and French rule in the establishment and development of this extreme example of juridical pluralism, the latter was reinforced by the consent of the Lebanese, to the extent that all attempts to secularise personal status laws under the mandate were faced with the uproar of religious leaders. Yet, the Lebanese law, starting with the Constitution, allows in many ways for civil marriage. The main constraints are political rather than legal. While almost all religious authorities reject civil marriage, Muslim authorities - especially Sunni - are the most virulent as they regard civil marriage as an identity threat. However, beyond religions, it is above all patriarchy that underlies such a sectarian approach.
Second semester University: Université Libre de Bruxelles.
marriage, Lebanon