Beirut, Lebanon (CNN) -- Lebanese women are taking to the streets to demand that the government takes domestic violence seriously, by introducing laws to protect women from abusive partners.
Nadine Mouwad, a founder of feminist collective Nasawiya, says the prevalence of unveiled, glamorous women in Beirut can create the impression that Lebanon is more liberated from patriarchal cultural attitudes than neighboring countries.
But that's merely an illusion, she says.
"The problem is that we are sold a lot of fake freedoms that raise Lebanese women under the impression that they have freedom to go anywhere, freedom to dress the way they want to," she said.
For the past year and a half, Mouwad and fellow feminist activists have been demanding that politicians ignore the objections of Muslim religious authorities and pass a stalled law protecting women from domestic violence.
A draft version of the Law to Protect Women from Family Violence was approved by Lebanon's Cabinet in 2010, but has since become bogged down in parliament, mainly due to the objections of Sunni and Shia authorities.
The initial version of the bill was drafted to criminalize physical and sexual abuse, so-called "honor crimes" and marital rape, create specially-trained domestic violence response units within the police, and provide the legal framework for restraining orders to be issued against abusers.
But Lebanon's religious courts -- the judicial authorities presiding over each of the country's faith communities, with jurisdiction over matters of "personal status," including marriage problems -- have criticized the proposed law as an attempt to erode their authority.
Dar al-Fatwa, Lebanon's top Sunni authority, and the Higher Shi'a Islamic Council both said that they opposed the draft on the basis that Sharia law protected the status of women, and should remain the basis for governing legal issues related to Muslim families.
Domestic violence cases in Lebanon are typically heard in the religious courts, which often respond with rulings focused on preserving the family unit, rather protecting women from violence.
It's a response that abused women are usually met with from police as well, says Lebanese lawyer Amer Badreddine.
"They are told to solve the problem amicably, to keep it a family issue and not cause embarrassment to themselves by bringing it to the police," said Badreddine, who specializes in domestic violence cases.
He said the law also failed to recognize marital rape as a crime -- a position that some Muslim judges argue should be upheld.
Criminalizing marital rape "could lead to the imprisonment of the man," Sheik Ahmad Al-Kurdi, a judge in the Sunni religious court, told CNN, "where in reality he is exercising the least of his marital rights." (Continue Reading.)
***UPDATE*** Osama Abdallah couldn't pass up the opportunity to blame women for rape, so he commented:
"It's simple. Don't look delicious in the eyes of your husband, and he won't rape you :). Throw the dior perfumes out."