Jordan abolishes marriage law protecting rapists

Jordan

Published: 2017-08-01 13:29

Last Updated: 2017-08-05 17:39


Editor: Amy McConaghy ،Khawla Alhamouri

Women activists and civil society groups will stage a sit-in in front of Parliament August 1. (Twitter)
Women activists and civil society groups will stage a sit-in in front of Parliament August 1. (Twitter)
Roya News Source

Article 308, the controversial law that protects rapists from punishment if they marry their victims, has been abolished from the Penal Code today, August 1.

The law, which stipulates that rape perpetrators may be pardoned if they marry their victims and stay with them for at least three years, has divided Jordan between those who argue it is necessary to protect women from the socia shame associated with having sex outside of marriage, and those who regard the law as a major violation of women's rights.

The legal committee of the parliament defended the clause, arguing it should be amended but not deleted entirely.

They suggested allowing for exceptions in cases where consensual sex took place with a child between the ages of 15 and 17 - which would be classed as rape due to age. 

However, the MPs rejected the legal committee's recommendations and agreed to abolish the article entirely. In a statement today, Jordan’s prime minister, Hani al-Mulki, said “the government insists on abolishing article 308.”

However, this sentiment was not shared among many in Jordan's parliament. The head of the parliamentary legal committee Mustafa Khasawneh, and three other members of the committee, resigned in protest against the article’s abolition.

Activists and members of civil society have hailed the abolition of the amendment as a victory for women's rights in the Kingdom, following years of campaiging against the article.

Yesterday and this morning, protesters staged a sit-in in front of Parliament to reiterate their demands for the complete abolition of the infamous law before the divisive decision was made.

"There was no way there should have been amendments. These would have created more societal dangers and that is why the article had to be cancelled," Asma Khader, a Jordanian lawyer and human rights activist and President of Sisterhood Is Global Institute in Jordan, told Roya News English.

"This decision is one we have been fighting for and is a huge step towards a better future for women in Jordan," she added. 

According to figures from Jordan's Ministry of Hustice, 159 rapists avoided punishment by marrying their victims between 2010 - 2013, with over 300 rapes were recorded annually on average during the same period. However, activists have noted that the actual figure is likely to be far higher.

The abolishment of article 308 is part of a regional movement towards cancelling provisions that create impunity for perpetrators of sexual assault.

Tunisia scrapped a similar provision in its penal code on July 26 and it January 2014, Morocco’s parliament removed a clause that allowed men to escape prosecution for raping a child if they agreed to marry her.

In 1999, Egypt repealed article 291 of its penal code, which had allowed rapists or kidnappers to escape prosecution by marrying their victim.

In Lebanon, the parliament is currently considering repealing a similar provision in its laws, and Bahrain’s parliament has proposed a full repeal.

However, several other countries across the MENA region still have legal loopholes that allow rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victim, including Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Palestine, and Syria.