BEIRUT, Nov 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The hashtag #ShameOnWho? is being deployed as part of a new street art campaign in Lebanon to try to change attitudes to rape in a country where victim shaming remains common.
The group behind the campaign, which launched this week, said it wanted to “shake” Lebanese society out of misconceptions about sexual violence, using street art depicting the faces of alleged rapists as described by their victims.
“There is so much blame and shaming of the victim. Our society needs to start recognising that rape, no matter what, is not justified,” said Ghida Anani, director of the campaign group Abaad.
“We need to demand more rights around sexual assault. If you don’t shake society and this reality - nothing is going to change,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Beirut.
The images went up on walls of buildings around Beirut on Tuesday and Wednesday alongside the hashtag and the words “Prosecute the rapist. Do not blame the victim”.
Some also featured voiceboxes with oral testimony from the victims, their voices distorted to disguise their identity.
About 13 sexual assaults on women are reported every month in Lebanon, official data show, but campaigners say many more go unreported.
The country only abolished a law that let rapists escape punishment if they marry their victims last year, and women’s rights campaigners say a culture of victim-shaming persists.
In 2016 a member of the Lebanese parliament sparked an outcry when he said people needed to ask themselves “if women play an active role in pushing men to rape them”.
A spokeswoman for the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering, a local women’s rights group, said shock tactics were needed if attitudes were to change.
“This captures people’s attention and creates an important debate - we need to start talking about these issues,” said Hayat Mirshad.
“Campaigns on violence against women need to start being aggressive and shocking.”
As part of the campaign, Abaad also released a video on social media of an actress who claimed to have been raped. Many people blamed her for what she was wearing or asked if she was on drugs.
Hundreds of rape survivors and activists will participate in the Beirut Marathon on Sunday to mark the campaign, which ends on November 25, International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org