Almost 70 years ago, Article 522 was introduced into Lebanon’s penal code, signaling the start of a decades-long period in which rapists have been able to avoid prosecution if they marry their victims. This year, ABAAD, a non-profit organization with a strong focus on women’s rights, set out to abolish this law through a powerful and visual campaign, Undress 522.
Together with ad agency Leo Burnett Beirut, ABAAD launched Undress 522 in mid- November, which instantly became a viral success at HOME and internationally. The campaign video, featuring a rape victim whose bruises are forcibly being covered with white gauze to form a makeshift wedding dress, was viewed over 2 million times in just a few days.
The film’s powerful depiction of rape as a crime that Lebanon’s patriarchal society attempts to cover up with marriage – and its message to “undress” the controversial law that protects rapists, emphasizing how “white cannot hide rape” – resonated with Lebanese citizens, politicians, and decision makers.
Following the video’s success, a demonstration was organized one day before parliament was scheduled to meet and discuss Article 522. On the 6th of December, ABAAD and Leo Burnett organized a sit-in with women from ABAAD safe shelters, each one dressed as a “bride” in a gauze wedding dress stained with fake blood, symbolizing the atrocities 522 protects.
As the women demanded the annulment of 522, crowds gathered to show their support, and members of local and international press were on ground covering the event as it unfolded. Hours before the committee was set to meet, news of the event spread across the region and the world, reaching countries such as China and India, placing more pressure on the committee.
In just 24 hours, on the 7th of December, lawmakers agreed to suspend the highly controversial law, and the Administration and Justice Parliamentary Committee agreed to have the law abolished.
“This is a historic decision for every single man and woman that has seen rapists walk free after raping someone,” said Ghida Anani, Founder and Director of ABAAD Organization. “More importantly, this is a historic day for Lebanon and parliamentarians who now have a chance to repeal an ancient law that should have never existed.”
The repeal of Article 522 now awaits the approval of parliament members.