Jor­dan par­lia­ment re­peals ‘marry the rapist’ clause

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

The lower house of Jor­dan’s par­lia­ment yes­ter­day scrapped a pro­vi­sion in the king­dom’s pe­nal code that al­lowed a rapist to es­cape pun­ish­ment if he mar­ried his vic­tim. Cheers and ap­plause erupted from a packed spec­ta­tors’ gallery as leg­is­la­tors voted for re­peal, fol­low­ing an emo­tional de­bate in which some of the law­mak­ers jumped up and yelled at each other. The vote was hailed as a ma­jor step forward for women in the con­ser­va­tive king­dom. “This is a vic­tory for the women’s move­ment and hu­man rights move­ment in Jor­dan,” said Salma Nims, the sec­re­tary general of the Jor­da­nian Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Women.

De­spite the coun­try’s pro-Western po­lit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion and cos­mopoli­tan urban elites, many ar­eas of Jor­dan re­main so­cially con­ser­va­tive, with en­trenched no­tions of “fam­ily honor”. This in­cludes the be­lief that hav­ing a rape vic­tim in the fam­ily is shame­ful, and that such “shame” can be ex­punged through mar­riage. In yes­ter­day’s de­bate, some law­mak­ers had ar­gued that an amended ver­sion of Ar­ti­cle 308 was needed to pro­tect rape vic­tims against so­cial stigma by giv­ing them the mar­riage op­tion.

In the end, law­mak­ers voted in line with the rec­om­men­da­tions of the gov­ern­ment and a royal com­mit­tee on le­gal re­forms. Prime Min­is­ter Hani Mulki ad­dressed the plenum be­fore the vote, say­ing the gov­ern­ment backs re­peal. The de­ci­sion must still be ap­proved by par­lia­ment’s ap­pointed up­per house, or Se­nate, and by King Ab­dul­lah II. After the ex­pected fi­nal ap­proval, Jor­dan would join Tu­nisia, Morocco and Egypt which have can­celed their “marry the rapist” clauses over the years.

The in­ter­na­tional rights group Hu­man Rights Watch said Le­banon’s par­lia­ment is also con­sid­er­ing re­peal­ing such a pro­vi­sion. The clause re­mains on the books in sev­eral other coun­tries in the Mid­dle East and Latin America, as well as in the Philip­pines and Ta­jik­istan, HRW said. In a state­ment is­sued be­fore Tues­day’s vote, the New York-based watch­dog said that scrap­ping Ar­ti­cle 308 “would be a pos­i­tive step to strengthen the rule of law and end im­punity for vi­o­lence against women.”

Dima Barakat, a lead­ing ac­tivist, said that those forc­ing a girl to marry her rapist “are killing this girl a thou­sand times a day, at least”. The at­tacker “took away her dig­nity, her honor and took away her life,” Barakat said. Ahead of yes­ter­day’s vote, sev­eral dozen ac­tivists ral­lied out­side the par­lia­ment in Am­man, the Jor­da­nian cap­i­tal, call­ing for re­peal. They held up ban­ners read­ing “Ar­ti­cle 308 is a dis­grace to the Jor­da­nian jus­tice sys­tem” and “Ar­ti­cle 308 does not pro­tect honor, it pro­tects the cul­prit.”

Nims said be­fore the vote that many of the law­mak­ers had been un­de­cided. She said some saw the pro­vi­sion as a form of “pro­tec­tion” for women who can de­mand mar­riage rather than suf­fer fur­ther so­cial stigma for hav­ing been raped. The need for such “pro­tec­tion” in­di­cates a fun­da­men­tal problem in how Jor­da­nian law and so­ci­ety per­ceive women, said Eva Abu Halaweh, ex­ec­u­tive man­ager of Mizan for Law, a hu­man rights group. “The law still looks at women as bodies, linked with ‘honor,’” Abu Halaweh said.

Ear­lier this week, par­lia­ment took an­other step to­ward le­gal re­form, clos­ing a le­gal loop­hole that had given courts the dis­cre­tion to im­pose sen­tences of as lit­tle as six months on those who killed fe­male rel­a­tives in the name of “fam­ily honor”. Un­der the new amend­ment, killing “in a fit of rage” can no longer be con­sid­ered a mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stance in such cases. — AP

AM­MAN: Women ac­tivists protest in front of Jor­dan’s par­lia­ment yes­ter­day with ban­ners call­ing on leg­is­la­tors to re­peal a pro­vi­sion that al­lows a rapist to es­cape pun­ish­ment if he mar­ries his vic­tim. — AP

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