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Women in Private Spaces - Lebanon

The SWMENA survey asked about attitudes towards domestic violence in Lebanon. While other surveys (for example, some of the Demographic and Health Surveys or DHS) have attempted to measure the prevalence with which women experience domestic violence, the SWMENA project measured community opinion and norms toward domestic violence in general and in specific (hypothetical) situations.

Figure 7 shows women’s reported tolerance of domestic violence tabulated overall and broken down by sect.

  • Overall, 93% of women feel that domestic violence is completely rejected in their communities, and 4% felt it was somewhat rejected. Three percent reported that they felt their community somewhat or widely tolerated the physical abuse of wives by their husbands.
  • The rejection of domestic violence is highest in Christian communities where 97% of women said they thought it was completely rejected and less than 1% felt it is widely tolerated.
  • Tolerance for husbands’ physical abuse of their wives appears relatively more widespread in both Shiite and Sunni communities. Over 90% of women in these communities felt that it was completely rejected, but almost 4% of Shiite women and 5% of Sunni women reported that domestic violence is somewhat or widely tolerated.
  • Ninety-three percent of Druze women said that domestic violence was completely rejected. Five percent said the physical abuse of wives by their husbands was somewhat rejected in their communities.

The survey asked respondents to provide the reasons that might explain why a husband might physically abuse his wife and open-ended responses were coded into categories. Up to three reasons could be provided by a single respondent. The top ten most frequently cited reasons for women are shown in Table 1, along with the corresponding percentage among men.

  • Overall, women and men provide similar reasons for domestic violence and at similar frequencies. The top three reasons for women are also the top reasons given by men and at roughly the same frequencies. Women and men both indicate that stress in the husband’s life is the primary reason for domestic violence (38% of women and 30% of men) among the options given.
  • The second most frequently selected reason for domestic violence is “the wife must have done something wrong.” Men stated this reason slightly more than women (27% for men versus 23% for women).

Very few Lebanese women and men report that they personally find it acceptable for a husband to beat his wife (Figure 8).

  • Among women, accepting domestic violence declines with educational attainment. Women with less than a primary school degree are the most likely to accept domestic violence at 12%. This percentage is half the rate among women who completed primary and intermediate schooling and cut in half again among women who have completed secondary or higher education
  • Among men, there is no systematic change in attitudes by education. Approximately one in ten men finds it acceptable for a husband to beat his wife.

In addition to asking a general question about whether respondents found it personally acceptable for a husband to beat his wife, the survey asked if respondents found such behaviors justified when framed in terms of six specific situations:

  • If she neglected household responsibilities
  • If she was disobedient or did not follow his orders
  • If she neglected the children
  • If she tried to impose her views
  • If she went out without telling her husband
  • If she refused sex


  • When framed in this way, 83% of women and 79% of men said domestic violence against women is never justified in all five of these situations.
  • Figure 9 shows three of these reasons for women who responded by educational attainment. The pattern is similar for the other three reasons offered by the interviewer.
  • In each case, women with more education report less acceptance of domestic violence for the justification offered.
  • At the lowest level  – less than primary schooling – 14-19% of women think a husband beating his wife always or sometimes justified the reason given.
  • The percentage always or sometimes accepting the justification offered declines to 4-8% among women with a secondary or higher degree.

The final question in this section asks about crimes men commit against women who are related to them in ways other than marriage. The survey asked, “As you may know, sometimes male relatives kill or commit acts of violence against women in their family to avenge the family’s honor when these women commit adultery or engage in pre-marital sexual relations. In Lebanon, these types of acts are not prosecuted by law on the basis that they are considered “honor crimes.” Do you support changing this law to allow the prosecution of those who commit these types of crimes or do you support keeping the current law as it is now?”

  • Majorities of both men (74%) and women (86%) support changing the penal code to allow the prosecution of perpetrators of “honor crimes.” However, it is worth noting that the overall percentage of men opposed to criminalizing honor killings (26%) is nearly twice as large as the percentage of women opposed to changing the law (14%).
  • Figure 10 shows that support for criminalizing honor killings varies by age for men, but remains relatively constant across age groups among women. Support for changing the law to criminalize honor killings is lowest among the youngest group, ages 18-34.

  • Support for criminalizing honor killings ranges from 70% among men and 18-34 years to 75% among men 35-54 years and 86% among men 55 years and older.
  • Among women, support for changing the law ranges from 83% for the youngest group, women age 18-34 years to approximately 88% for the older two groups – 89% for women age 35-54 and 88% for women age 55 and older.