Lebanon, like most Arab countries, delegates authority in matters relating to what is referred to as “personal status” to religious courts. Almost all of the over four million Lebanese residing in Lebanon are officially affiliated to one of eighteen religious sects recognized by the state and are thus subject to one of fifteen personal status laws (PSLs, often also referred to as family laws). These laws underpin issues related to marriage and its consequences, such as divorce and custody and, in the case of Muslim communities, inheritance. By defining the roles, responsibilities, and rights of men and women entering into marriage, PSLs and the religious courts that adjudicate on all matters related to them have the power to greatly influence the gender dynamics of a country. Lebanon’s patriarchal and discriminatory laws, both civil and personal status, have been described as contributing to violence against women and positioning them as second–class citizens.
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