Urgent Alert: Jordan close to ending legal exemptions for rapists
Progress! Parliament's Lower House votes to revoke Article 308 (1 August)
After months of deliberation, Jordan is finally close to ending the law that allows rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims (Article 308).
Jordan is poised to revoke legislation that is contributing to sexual violence, following years of national campaigning and efforts by Parliamentarians, women’s and human rights organizations. In late February, a Royal Committee recommended that King Abdallah II bin Al-Hussein repeal Article 308 of the Penal Code. On 15 March, the Cabinet of Jordan approved the recommendation which is going through the final steps before reaching Parliament.
In our recent report on how sexual violence laws are failing women and girls, we showed how these types of legal exemptions and “settlements” help fuel the global rape epidemic. With limited fears of punishment, abusers are violating countless women and girls and survivors are denied justice. This is exactly what happened to 20-year-old Noor*, who was raped by 55-year-old Abed* in Jordan. She worked in his mobile shop and as his housekeeper and babysitter. One day she came down with a headache and accepted some pills from him to fight it. The next thing she remembers is waking up naked and raped. Our partner, the Sisterhood is Global Institute shared her traumatic experience:
I cried and cried not knowing what to do. At that moment, I realized that my family will be devastated. He tried to make me calm by saying I will marry you and he promised to go and ask for my hand. He brought a piece of paper and we both signed a marriage contract...I was frightened, devastated, and thought to keep silent. [Later] I realized that I was pregnant…I decided to file a complaint at the police station because of my baby; I accused him of raping me. 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 honor.” 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 recognize the baby while divorcing me. I accepted that because I could not bear living with my rapist.
With rape and sexual abuse impacting nearly a billion women and girls over their lifetimes, a repeal would set yet another crucial example that change is possible in the Arab region, and around the world, for countries with similar exemptions. In December 2016, we brought together advocates from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and their determination to end these types of violence-promoting and discriminatory laws, was clear.
Equality Now, our partners in a 110 member-strong “Civil Coalition to Revoke article 308” coordinated by Sisterhood is Global, the Arab Women Organization and strong parliamentarians such as Ms. Wafa Bany Mostafa are backing the efforts. Help us build on the progress made by countries such as Morocco, Egypt and Ethiopia, who’ve closed similar loopholes, and Lebanon and Bahrain, where amendments are pending. Revoking Article 308 would also put Jordan in compliance with its international legal obligations, including the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Following our June 2016 and January 2017 joint submission to the CEDAW Committee, it also recommended in its March 2017 concluding observations that Jordan “repeal without further delay all remaining discriminatory provisions of the Penal Code condoning gender-based violence against women, in particular articles 97 to 99, 308 and 340, and ensure that rapists and perpetrators of crimes committed in the name of so-called honour are prosecuted and adequately punished without benefiting from any mitigating and exculpatory provisions.”