Shiite protesters demand fair custody laws
Written by Malek

Family law in Lebanon falls exclusively under the jurisdiction of religious courts, meaning each sect dictates rules regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody. For Shiites, fathers automatically gain full custody of boys aged 2-years-old. Mothers can keep their daughters until they reach 7-years-old. The rally comes in light of a recent decision by a judge to allow a mother, Rita Choucair, to see her two-year-old son, Adam, three hours per week over differences with her estranged husband, until a final decision is made on the matter. “Custody is a right that should be given to Rita and every mother,” a sign carried by a protester read.

Rita was first granted 24-hour visits from her son on a weekly basis, however, in light of the conflict with her ex-husband, the duration of the visit was limited to three hours a week. Protecting Lebanese Women campaign said on its Facebook page that the protest comes "in solidarity with Rita and all mothers deprived of their children." Among the protesters was Fatima Hamzeh, a mother arrested in November for refusing to give away the right of custody over her 4-year-old son, Ali. Hamzeh’s apprehension sparked public backlash and a series of demonstrations that ended when Speaker Nabih Berri interfered to mediate her release. In Saturday’s protest, Ali was wearing T-shirt that read, “the world is a mother,” an Arabic proverb stressing the importance of mothers to their children. While most of the protesters came from Beirut and surrounding areas, a number arrived to the protest from south Lebanon. Many others chose to support the cause online. “Raising the minimum age of custody and lobbying for updating the Shiite court laws [in Lebanon] are humanitarian, social and national rights and demands,” Imad Fadel, a Facebook user wrote on PLW’s page.