308: When film makes a change in Jordanian politics


Published: 2017-08-07 16:39

Last Updated: 2017-08-07 18:58

The first day of August brought with it a new month and a more promising future for vulnerable Jordanian women.


After years of social activism, the Jordanian parliament scrapped the controversial rape law, aka, Article 308, which allowed rapists to “rape then escape” their crime by marrying their victim.


We spoke to Jordanian actress Raneem Al Daoud, who, in her own way, campaigned against the now-scrapped law.


In late 2016, she starred in an emotional short film depicting one girl’s real-life story with 308.


The touching short showed the sad reality many girls have to face when suspected of being raped.


We asked Raneem how she felt about playing “Marah,” a schoolgirl whose uncle forced her to marry her “rapist” in return for financial compensation.


“After sitting with the film's director, Saif Al Saher, and discussing article 308 and listening to stories of rape survivors, I had a sudden gut instinct to play this role without thinking about it twice. I had to be part of raising awareness where freedom is being given to those who don’t deserve it,” she said.


Raneem said that she felt “angry, broken and scared” for some time after filming a scene where she had to get a rape kit done.


“I felt every step Marah went through like I was put in that situation myself. It was painful and embarrassing trying to defend myself for something I didn’t do. It felt real and terrifying being on that chair in the hospital room almost believing I was wrong.”


Derived from the Ottoman Law, Article 308 was established in 1960. Despite being amended since then, activists and human rights organizations were adamant that it must be abolished.


Raneem had strong feelings about the law being abolished.


“Sexual violence laws, such as Allowing rapists to marry their victims and escaping prosecution, should not be a discussion of right or wrong.


“It’s a great victory to know that our country is portraying a great example in moving forward. Special thanks go out to our activists who continuously persisted that this change should come.”


As for the young actress’s future plans and how she plans to tackle other key social issues in Jordanian society through her work, she said:


“As a woman, particularly an Arab woman who was raised in an Arab country, I witness harassment almost daily, therefore I understand the injustice and feel part of it.


“It is very important for me to take part in change and social reformation. Thankfully, I am blessed to be in an industry where my job as an actress is not only to entertain people, but to be able to raise awareness for issues that matter.


“I believe that it’s important for people to watch visually in order to fully grasp the reality of the news we read.”


Raneem, however, is convinced that change must come from the people within, not by amending or abolishing laws alone.


“It’s all about the society and their beliefs. No matter how many laws we try to change, I believe the biggest challenge is to work on the mindset of the people and make them understand that your religion or traditions do not require you to commit such crimes.”


For her, art is the way forward.


“Through education and art, we can achieve that change in the way this film was part of this huge victory.”