Jordan may finally abolish law that lets rapists escape punishment by marrying victim

Romil Patel
Amman

A draft law eliminating an archaic legal provision that protects rapists from punishment if they marry their victims was given the green light by the Jordanian government on Sunday (23 April).

Article 308 of Jordan's penal code stipulates that persons accused of sexual assault are exempt from prosecution if they agree to marry their victim for a minimum of three years. It comes after recommendations, made by a royal committee in February, suggested the law should be scrapped entirely.

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Jordan's current law states that rape is punishable with a minimum of seven years' imprisonment if the victim is aged under 15. If a victim is aged between 15 and 18, the rapist could avoid punishment by using this loophole to marry them.

The decision to revoke Article 308 comes after years of campaigning by women's rights activists, lawyers, journalists and Muslim and Christian scholars. Supporters of the law argue that it protects the victim's "honour".

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MPs must now vote on the cabinet's decision and there is a chance that it could be blocked, according to the BBC.

According to figures from Jordan's ministry of justice, 159 rapists escaped conviction by marrying their victim between 2010 and 2013. Over the same period, 300 rapes were recorded annually.

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Equality Now, an international women's rights advocacy organisation, highlighted the case of 20-year-old Noor (not her real name), who was raped by a 55-year-old man.

The rapist, who was also Noor's employer, offered her some pills as she was suffering from a headache. She woke up naked and later found out that he had impregnated her.

"I decided to file a complaint at the police station because of my baby; I accused him of raping me," she was quoted as saying by Equality Now.

"He then proposed to marry me under article 308 of the Jordanian penal code [because] the prosecution would be stopped if he did so... My family forced me to marry him so as to save the 'family's honour.'

"I married him and I moved to live with him with all the negative memories of rape and deception. I thought that life with my baby might make me happy, but I was very wrong; my situation deteriorated.

"My only hope from marrying him was to make my baby safe. I was keen to register him in his father's name, but I failed. He started to negotiate by offering to recognise the baby while divorcing me. I accepted that because I could not bear living with my rapist," added Noor.

While Amman took a step towards abolishing Article 308, a similar debate is also taking place in Lebanon. Over the weekend, more than 30 wedding dresses were hung from nooses along Beirut's coastline.

The dresses were hung as part of a 16-day campaign protesting Article 522 of the penal code, which "stops prosecution or execution of a penalty when the perpetrator of a rape, kidnapping, or statutory rape marries the person he has raped or kidnapped".

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