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Campaigners use Beirut Marathon to urge action on rape

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Beirut (AFP)

Protesters holding signs reading "I will face my rapist" lined the course of Beirut's Marathon on Sunday to call for tougher action against sexual abusers.

The campaign in the Lebanese capital also sought to challenge perceptions in Lebanese society that often blame victims rather than attackers.

Dozens of solemn-faced campaigners, many dressed in black, took their places along the seaside course of the race.

They held up signs bearing slogans in Arabic and English that read: "Today, I will not run: I will face my rapist" and "Judge the rapist, not the victim".

The campaign, under the hashtag #ShameOnWho, was organised by organised by NGO Abaad, which says one in four women in Lebanon have been sexually assaulted.

It estimates that only 38 percent of these cases are reported.

Director Ghida Anani thanked marathon organisers for cooperating with the campaign, saying the event provided an opportunity to spark debate on "the culture of blaming the victim".

"It's a platform where we can really address the public (on) a topic that is still considered a big taboo" in Lebanon, she said.

Activists with black veils over their faces and red balloons in their hands, also held a march, carrying placards bearing accusations often directed at rape victims: "She must have provoked it" and "She must have been drinking".

Marathon runner Maria, 16, said the campaign was "audacious".

"It was really powerful. Women often don't dare to speak out, but we really have to, we have to say that criminals must be punished," she said.

Lebanon's parliament last year scrapped a controversial law allowing rapists who marry their victims to go free, after a high-profile campaign spearheaded by Abaad.

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