Jordan abolishes 'marry the victim' clause protecting rapists from punishment

Jordan abolishes 'marry the victim' clause protecting rapists from punishment
Jordan has repealed a legal clause that allowed rapists to escape punishment if they married their victim, marking a major victory for women's rights.
2 min read
01 August, 2017
Jordan joins Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt which have cancelled "marry the rapist" clauses [Getty]
Jordan's parliament has repealed a provision in its penal code that allowed a rapist to escape punishment if he married his victim.

Cheers erupted from the spectators' gallery as legislators narrowly voted on Tuesday to scrap controversial Article 308.

The vote came after an emotional debate in which some lawmakers argued that an amended version of the clause was needed to protect rape victims against social stigma by giving them the marriage option.

Women who are raped in Jordan often face a lot of stigma from family members and their communities, accused of bringing "dishonour" to their families. 

In extreme cases women could be murdered as a result in so-called honour crimes.

Lawmakers on Sunday closed a legal loophole that allowed judges to impose light sentences for "honour crimes", where previously some killers had served as little as six months in prison.

Tuesday's decision must still be approved by parliament's appointed upper house, or Senate, and by King Abdullah II.

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Jordan joins Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt which have cancelled "marry the victim" clauses over the years. 

Lebanon's parliament is also considering repealing such a provision.

Women's rights advocates here have previously said that repealing Article 308 would be a victory, but that more work still lies ahead in a society with deeply rooted customs of patriarchy and a legal system that often goes easy on the male perpetrators.

"It's about the patriarchal mentality in a society that never punishes the man or shames him for anything," said Asma Khader, a lawyer and activist.

Judge Jehad al-Duradi, who handles sexual violence cases in Jordan's main criminal court, said women who agree to marry their attackers often act out of desperation.

The judge cited the case of a 15-year-old who was raped by her sister's husband. At the pregnant teenager's request, her marriage to her rapist was approved.

The rapist escaped punishment and expelled his new wife from his home on the day of the wedding, leaving her to fend for herself and her child, the judge said.

The 15-year-old, raped by her brother-in-law, had decided to marry her attacker, hoping this would shield her from other male relatives who might kill her in the name of "family honour".

"I feel like we're living in a historic moment," Suad Abu Dayyeh of Equality Now told the Independent on Tuesday. "All these years of campaigning have paid off and will send a positive message to the rest of the region."