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Stumbling Blocks to the Secularization of PersonalStatus Laws in the Lebanese Republic (1926-2013)

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image of Arab Law Quarterly

Despite recurrent efforts to introduce a civil personal status code since 1926, personal status laws in Lebanon remain regulated by the confessional codices of the country’s eighteen denominations. This article examines how efforts at secularization were repeatedly thwarted due to veto rights accorded to sectarian heads in the Lebanese Constitution. The codification of sectarian marriage and inheritance laws is related to Lebanon’s confessional political system and to the attendant perpetuation of kinship ties and fluctuating confessional attitudes. The latter are measured and compared diachronically with a series of surveys. Paradoxically, the chronic weakness of the Lebanese state would render top-down reform measures an exceedingly difficult task even as it opened the space for increasingly effective civil society activism aimed at dismantling the juridical hegemony of the sects.

Affiliations: 1: School of Foreign Service in Qatar, Georgetown


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