Civil Marriage in Lebanon – Gemmayzé takes the lead


civil_marriage_lebanonThey said “I do” and sealed their marriage.

But this time, the wedding ceremony was not blessed by a sheik or a priest in a church or mosque, as is usually the case in Lebanon.

It was performed in a bar.

To protest laws that do not allow for civil or secular marriages to be conducted in their country, a group of Lebanese couples decided to tie the knot in mock civil weddings Thursday evening in Gemmayze, a bustling neighborhood in Beyrouth’s centre-ville.

Other similar ceremonies will continue to be held this weekend.

Activists have been campaigning in vain for years to make civil marriage legal in Lebanon. Although petitions were signed across the country for the right, religious leaders in this small, multi-sectarian country steadfastly oppose the move.

Many Lebanese couples of different religious affiliations are forced to travel to Cyprus, Turkey or other countries to get married. Their civil union is then recognized by Lebanese authorities.

In neighbouring multi-confessional countries, such as Syria, Iraq and Israel, cross-sectarian marriage also remain highly controversial.

In Israel, like in Lebanon, civil marriages cannot be performed in the country but are acknowledged if they are registered abroad.

In October last year, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said her centrist party, Kadima, intended to introduce a bill to legalize civil marriage in Israel. Kadima emerged victorious in Israel parliamentary elections on Feb. 10, though it will fail to be able to build a government.

In Syria, calls for the legalization of civil marriages are emerging. One group on the online social network Facebook has gathered 900 members who support civil marriage in Syria.

One of the members, who identified herself as Manal, wrote on the wall of the group, “civil marriage presents the respect of choice and the acceptance of the other. What would this bring to Syria? Harmony, less honor crimes, less immigration.

In Iraq, as stated in Islamic legislation, Muslim women are legally prohibited from marrying a non-Muslim. Muslim men, on the other hand, are allowed to marry non-Muslim women if they are Christian or Jewish.

For many secular or non-believing Lebanese, the problem is not only limited to civil marriage but touches on an array of issues, such as inheritance and electoral candidacy that are confined to the boundaries of sectarian laws.

Civil rights groups have been lobbying for years for a law that lets people organize their affairs without following the guidelines of a religious institution.

Adopting a civil law will in a way improve the legal status of women with respect to family law, especially the custody of children in the case of a divorce and their share of an inheritance,” Nadine Farghal, a legal expert, told Babylon & Beyond.

But with political groups and religious leaders benefiting from the current sectarian system, the emergence of civil laws might not happen any time soon.

Despite this, a noteworthy bold move related to civil freedoms in Lebanon happened recently.  The interior minister, Ziad Baroud, issued a decision that gives the right to citizens to remove their religious affiliation from their official file if they so wish.

Baroud, who was a prominent civil rights advocate before becoming a Cabinet member last year, argued that this right was guaranteed by the international declaration for human rights and by the Lebanese Constitution, which stipulates the freedom of religious belief.

Although many Lebanese consider themselves non-religious, whether they like it or not sectarian affiliations continue to be inscribed on their official documents from the day they are born.

According to Farghal, this decision will lead to several legal and technical problems if it is not followed by other measures. “It will at least launch the debate in the public,” she said.

An opinion piece posted recently by the Lebanese news website Now Lebanon welcomed Baroud’s decision:

It is a move that fights petty sectarianism and paves the way for the creation of a healthy society, one based on national concerns, national identity and national aspirations. … The aim is to reach a civil law that applies to all and leaves religion as a personal matter. In this sense, the announcement is a marker for civil society to expand upon. There is still much to do.

Raed Rafei in Beyrouth


8 Responses to “Civil Marriage in Lebanon – Gemmayzé takes the lead”

  1. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to
    this excellent blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle
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  2. 2 Alireza vafakish


  3. 3 Alireza vafakish

    I am alireza from Iran(Tehran).I’m 34 years old.
    I’m looking for a muslem(sheea)and beautiful girl for marriage.
    for reply pleace send email.

  4. 4 masoud

    i would rather marriage to lobnan girl

  5. 5 Elie

    I Would like to ask …
    i would like to have a civil marriage .. is it possible in lebanon? can i make it here the same as that couple made it? if anyone can help me as soon as possible give me to know please on my e-mail adress.

    and i would like to have a phone number of someone who can help me in this situation please.
    thank you.

  6. 6 Houssam Raydan

    Wonderful Move,

    It is about time we lebanese set ourselfs free from the sick religous system.

  7. On a woman’s right to give nationality to her children…
    Nationality is not Pandora’s Box. Finding a solution would mark a beginning for laying a foundation that will eventually allow the average citizen to find refuge in Justice. Lebanese law should follow the constitution in affording equality for every and all citizens of Lebanon. Nationality is more than a right. Lebanese mothers pour every ounce of their life into raising their children. The government may deny some of those children Nationality but they are stealing it because those children see Lebanon through the eyes of their Mother. They feel Lebanese in the deepest part of their soul.

    According to a report on CNN, some couple are finding a loop hole by getting mairried abroad and then declaring children illigitimate in Lebanon so that they will be granted Lebanese Nationality.

  8. 8 salim yassine

    congratulations for your move. Let all go ahead for a civil society far for sectarianism and confessionnalist system. We Lebanese refuse to be like a sheep horde led to the slaughterhouse every 15 years by vampire leaders who survive only by religious hate

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