In Lebanon, Legal Networking Meeting Tackles Cyber Extortion Against Women and Girls

FEMALE and Loyac held a legal consultation meeting at the Lawyer’s House in Beirut, focusing on “Strategies to Combat Violence Against Women and Girls, with a Special Emphasis on Cyber Extortion.”

This meeting marked the culmination of an intensive training program designed to empower women lawyers with the necessary tools to address violence against women and girls, particularly in the realm of cyber extortion. It was part of the inaugural cycle of the Legal Clinic initiative.

The meeting was attended by the Commissioner of the Palace of Justice and representative of the Beirut Bar Association, Lawyer Maya Al-Zaghrini, MPs Halima Kaakour and Firas Hamdan, Assistant Head of the Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Protection Office, Major Ayman Tajeddin, and a group of women lawyers, civil society representatives, and journalists.

During the meeting, the cohort of women lawyers engaged in the Legal Clinic initiative provided a comprehensive summary of the outcome of their extensive months-long training. This training was diligently overseen by a team of seasoned professionals, comprising judges, deputies, lawyers, and activists. Additionally, the trainees presented a set of practical proposals aimed at formulating impactful strategies for cybersecurity to radically combat the escalating threat of extortion, particularly targeting women and girls.

Following the presentation, a panel of experts discussed the seriousness of the phenomenon and explored multi-faceted strategies for legal, security, and societal intervention during a seminar moderated by feminist activist and FEMALE Association director, Hayat Mirshad. The discussion was enriched by the insights of MP Halima Kaakour, an active member of the Executive Office and Legal Committee of the National Commission for Lebanese Women; prominent lawyer Ghada Jumblatt; and Major Ayman Tajeddine, the assistant head of the Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Protection Bureau.

MP Halima Kaakour pledges to champion the adoption of the draft law in Parliament

During the panel discussion, MP Halima Kaakour, who actively participated in the initial training session for women lawyers under the Legal Clinic program, expressed her commitment to collaborating further with the trainees. She announced her intention to assist in drafting proposals and formulating a comprehensive law for discussion in the Lebanese Parliament. This significant stride for the clinic was underscored by Kaakour’s assurance of adopting the proposed amendments in Parliament.

Addressing the concerning surge in the prevalence of digital violence against women, Kaakour stressed the imperative of revisiting existing laws and aligning them with the severity of the situation.

Major Ayman Tajeddin, Assistant Head of the Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Protection Bureau, provided an overview of the bureau’s endeavors in combating cyber violence. He emphasizes the serious consequences of this phenomenon, highlighting “the necessity of implementing preemptive technical measures to avoid falling victim to it.”

Lawyer Ghada Jumblatt revealed the National Commission for Lebanese Women’s (NCLW) efforts in advocating for and safeguarding the rights of women and girls, particularly in combating cyber violence. Jumblatt emphasized the significance of “awareness-raising initiatives and collaborative networking among various institutions to ensure better protection.” Moreover, she underscored the Commission’s commitment to incorporating these issues into national plans and priorities, advocating for a specialized law to address digital violence. She emphasized the importance of learning from past experiences and gaps encountered while formulating laws pertaining to women’s rights, such as those addressing domestic violence and sexual harassment.”

FEMALE’s Digital Violence Hotline

In a pertinent discussion, Hayat Mirshad, Director of FEMALE, highlighted the organization’s dedicated efforts spanning over four years in combating online violence and blackmail through the “Screens Do Not Protect” campaign, particularly targeting women and girls. She emphasized FEMALE’s provision of crucial psychological and legal support services in this domain.

Mirshad further announced “the recent launch of a digital violence hotline, tailored to support survivors who courageously choose to break their silence, raise their voices, and report instances of digital violence. This vital service can be accessed through the dedicated hotline number, 81111456, staffed by trained activists ready to assist.”

During the meeting, Lawyer Asma Dagher Hmedeh, the head of the Women’s Committee at the Bar Association, emphasized the imperative of “upholding gender equality, as enshrined in the preamble of the Lebanese Constitution.”

Hmedeh underscored the committee’s “longstanding efforts to scrutinize existing laws and seek legislative measures to safeguard women from gender-based violence. Specifically, she highlighted the committee’s endeavors to address issues such as early marriage, nationality and personal status laws, and the implementation of a women’s quota to enhance their participation in political endeavors.”

In addressing the pressing issue of cyber extortion, she stressed the urgent need for “concerted efforts to establish legal frameworks aimed at combating violence against women and girls, which often escalates due to the proliferation of this phenomenon. She highlighted the disproportionate impact on women, who bear a dual burden as victims. Moreover, she cautioned against underestimating the pernicious effects of cyber extortion, which can inflict profound physical, sexual, mental, and psychological harm on its victims.”

Joint endeavors for robust protection mechanisms

The collaboration between FEMALE and Loyac, as highlighted by Loyac’s Executive Director Nadia Ahmad, underscores their “shared commitment to furnishing unique opportunities for young individuals, irrespective of gender, aimed at empowerment and the cultivation of an enlightened generation conducive to peace.”

Nadia Ahmad emphasized “the pressing need for heightened interventions and initiatives geared towards fostering awareness about human rights violations, with a particular emphasis on the rights of women and girls.” She advocated for “intensified efforts across various spheres—economic, social, political, legal, and humanitarian—to safeguard and ensure these rights.”

At the end of the meeting, certificates were distributed to the graduating trainees, acknowledging their completion of the training program.

It is worth noting that the legal clinic initiative, borne out of the collaboration between Loyac and FEMALE, seeks to deepen understanding of both local and international legal frameworks. Its overarching goal is to formulate effective protection mechanisms while addressing existing gaps hindering women’s and children’s access to justice and protection.

Furthermore, the initiative aims to cultivate a cadre of human rights advocates capable of utilizing their acquired knowledge to support civil organizations engaged in advocacy efforts. This involves lobbying for the amendment of unjust laws and the adoption of progressive legislation that ensures gender justice, rights, and equality for all members of society.


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