LEBANON: Finalisation of new draft legislation on child protection and freedom of association

Summary: The Lebanese caretaker Social Affairs Minister Salim Sayegh presses new government for recognition of child protection through new draft law.

[BEIRUT, 11 February 2011] - The next government must work to uphold and add to the achievements made in defence of children’s rights and representation in Lebanon, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Salim Sayegh said Thursday.

Following the collapse of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Cabinet last month, Sayegh has boosted the ministry’s work pace to launch as many of his planned projects as possible.

“Legislative work requires political determination and the allocation of the proper resources to implement the draft law [for child protection],” Sayegh told a news conference held to announce the introduction of a number of draft laws belonging to the third stage of the national social development strategy.

The move comes in the run-up to the announcement of a new Cabinet, of which Sayegh, a Kataeb (Phalange) Party official, might not be a part.

“We’ve had enough of postponements and delays … I hope the new cabinet will be committed to social affairs and not to ministerial positions for the sake of power,” said Sayegh.

However, Sayegh expressed concern that the draft laws would not be enacted by Parliament and the new Cabinet. “If they disregard the entire agenda we have been working on day and night, I am afraid we will go back to [square one],” he added. 

More than a dozen draft laws were formulated by Saint Joseph University’s Centre d’études de Droit du Monde Arabe (Center of Law Studies of the Arab World) and handed to the Higher Council for Childhood.

The draft laws proposed by the council at the conference include amending existing laws on association memberships and certain penal code articles.

They call for lowering the legal age requirement for joining associations from 21 to 15, and also spell out measures for strengthening the rights of disabled children and their protection by the government. (more below)

Amendments to the penal code also... demand the introduction of clearer definitions regarding abuses, as well as stricter penalties for sexual exploitation cases. 

The minister added that it was completely unacceptable that other countries in the region, such as Syria and Jordan, have surpassed Lebanon in their child protection legislation. “Syrian President Bashar Assad allocated $10 million to child protection services and asked his government to implement them immediately,” he added.

Other proposed reforms include imposing free and mandatory education for children up to the age of 15, as well as restricting the workforce to persons above that age.

Most of the draft laws call for the prosecution of a child’s guardian who violates the decrees in defence of children’s rights.

CRIN background note on Freedom of Association in Lebanon

Freedom of association in Lebanon is consecrated in Article 13 (1) of the Constitution and governed by the 1909 “Ottoman law”, which was inspired by the French law on associations. The 1909 law allows for associations to be created through a simple notification or declaration.

Article 2 of the Law on Associations states that “the formation of an association does not require any preliminary authorisation, but it is compulsory to notify the government about its formation once it is created.”

At the moment, the Lebanese law does not ensure children's right to participation . For example, the legal age to vote is 21. And children are not allowed to join or form association. (2)

Foreigners may only constitute 25 per cent of the membership of an association; and with Palestinians forming about 10 per cent of the population (425,000 according to UNRWA), this rule limits Palestinian children's right to association.

The government is developing initiatives to strengthen children's freedom of association: for example, the Higher Council for Childhood (3) has established a specialised committee on child participation whose mandate will be to promote child participation.

Summary of the section on Lebanon of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network 2010 annual Review on Freedom of Association

Lebanon has the most liberal association law in the South and East Mediterranean region and in practice it may be considered the only Arab state with hardly any real restrictions to the right to freedom of association. Of an estimated 6,000 associations, more than 588 have been established since 2008. The law considers an association to be established as of the date of its application and it is free to hold meetings, open bank accounts, join regional or international networks, and receive funding without prior approval. Since 2007, the government has sought recommendations from civil society, and the only restrictions in prilactice for associations seemed to be those targeting groups working on LGBT issues. (4)

The official acknowledgment receipt used to require a lengthy process of approval by the ministry concerned and the General Security. But in 2008 this was changed, when a new circular was implemented to complete the formation within two to three months. In practice however, this may take longer than predicted and activists say applications are still sent to the security services for their approval, or simply to inform them.


1. Article 13: 'The freedom to express one's opinion orally or in writing, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom of association are guaranteed within the limits established by law.'.

2. Article 5 of law 1909: 'Members of an association must not be under 20 years of age, have been convicted of a crime, or have been deprived of civil rights.'

3. The Higher Council for Childhood is part of the Lebanese Minstry of Foreign Affairs. Its key role is to monitor the implementation of the CRC and other child related international instruments.

4. The Helem (Dream) Association, which defends LGBT rights, continued to meet obstacles during the period under review and has been awaiting a receipt since its foundation in 2005. Homosexuality is prohibited under Article 534 of the Lebanese criminal code, which forbids sexual relations that are “contrary to the laws of nature” and makes it punishable by a sentence of up to one year.

Further Information:

pdf: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=1&article_...


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