The Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) on Sunday called for cancelling Article 308 that pardons rapists if they marry their victim.
The JNCW’s call came a few days after the Council of Ministers approved amendments to the Penal Code for the year 1960 that included cancelling Article 308 by a Justice Ministry committee but “with a few exceptions.”
Under Article 308, rapists were spared from punishment or legal prosecution if they married their victims and stayed with them for three years (in misdemeanour convictions) or five years (criminal conviction).
The “few exceptions” that were considered by the committee included cases of adultery, and cases where the victim is aged between 15 and 18 and “the sexual act is consensual,” Justice Minister Bassam Talhouni told The Jordan Times last week.
Talhouni explained that the idea is to protect the victim because in some instances she could be harmed or killed by her family if she does not marry her rapist.
Under the Penal Code, sexual encounters with girls aged 15 to 18 is considered rape even if it was consensual.
But JNCW Secretary General Salma Nims said the women’s movement that convened on Sunday “demanded the cancellation of the entire article without any exceptions.”
“Allowing a man to marry a girl 18 and below who was subjected to rape or even in consensual cases is considered recklessness for the female child’s life,” Nims told The Jordan Times.
For the women’s movement, Nims added, “in such cases, they should be treated as victims and should not marry the person who raped them regardless of whether it was consensual or not.”
“We cannot rely on a child’s decision to get married to her rapist because she is a minor and cannot judge properly or weigh the consequences of such a marriage,” Nims explained.
Meanwhile, lawyer and activist Eva Abu Halaweh said that participants in Sunday’s meeting stressed that the goal of getting married as stipulated in the Personal Status Law is “to start a family” and not to escape punishment if the perpetrator marries his victim.
Activists said recently that “a staggering 95 percent of rapists continue to go unpunished” because of Article 308.
Lawyers, journalists, activists, and Muslim and Christian scholars have repeatedly called for eliminating Article 308 and adopting better psychological and legal measures to protect victims of rape and molestation in Jordan.
Supporters of the article claim that “it is meant to protect the honour and reputation of the victim."
Talhouni said in previous remarks to The Jordan Times that a ministerial committee comprising veteran judges, lawyers, criminal prosecutors, police, academics, activists and civil society representatives worked “tirelessly” for the past nine months on the draft “to come up with a progressive Penal Code."
“We chose the specialists to be on the ministerial committee to be able to benefit from their knowledge, practice and experience,” he added.
But Nims complained that the JNCW was “not included in this committee."
“The JNCW is authority when it comes to women’s issues based on a Cabinet decision in the past but the ministry did not include us in this committee,” Nims complained.
The JNCW’s secretary general added that the commission submitted a list that included many legal amendments that would eliminate discrimination against women to the Justice Ministry in August.
“Cancelling Article 308 was one of our demands based on the women movement’s request and still they did not think of including us to give them our thoughts about this article and other articles in the Penal Code that relates to the well-being of women and children,” Nims said.
Commenting on the JNCW’s grievance on not being included in the committee, Talhouni said the panel revised the entire Penal Code, not only articles related to women and children, noting that it also included representatives of the National Centre for Human Rights and the Social Development Ministry.
“This draft will go to the Lower House for discussion and it will be referred to the relevant committees, including the women and legal panels,” the minister told The Jordan Times.
By Rana Husseini
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