The Oasis Reporters
Aug 3, 2017
One of the easiest places to marry a recalcitrant girl is Jordan. All that a determined man had to do was stalk, catch and rape the girl anyhow.Then declare that he’d marry his victim immediately. That’s all. Nobody gets jailed. Everyone makes merry, gloomy face or not.
Well, Jordan just got to the threshold of 2017, so yesterday, Jordanian lawmakers voted to scrap a law that let’s people get away with rape as long as they marry their victim. This is real.
Jordan is an Arab country in the Middle East that thinks rape shames a woman’s family. But not if the rapist marries her. Now the country’s saying ‘actually this is completely outdated’ and is moving toward changing the rules so rapists can be punished.
It follows other countries in the region, including Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, which have made similar changes to their laws. And Lebanon might join the human rights party next.
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, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
But first, Jordan’s upper house of Parliament and king still have to sign off on it. Chances are that King Abdullah II and the upper house, or Senate will say, ‘OK’.
Cheers erupted from the spectators’ gallery as legislators narrowly voted for repeal, following an emotional debate.
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 wiped off through marriage.
In Tuesday’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.
Moussa Maaytah, the Cabinet minister for parliamentary affairs, saw Tuesday’s “progressive decision” as a happy ending to years of debate in the Jordanian society.
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.”
Ahead of Tuesday’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.”
Before the vote that many of the lawmakers had been undecided, it was learnt by human rights groups.
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.