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57% of sexual assault survivors hesitate to report it — study

By Rana Husseini - Oct 13,2015 - Last updated at Oct 13,2015

AMMAN — A local study revealed on Tuesday that one in two female survivors (57 per cent) of sexual assault hesitate to file a complaint against their offenders out of fear of shame or scandal.  

The study revealed that other factors deterring female survivors from filing such complaints include family and perpetrators’ threats, which represented 28 per cent of those surveyed.

Meanwhile, nearly half the Jordanians surveyed (45 per cent) believe that a victim’s refusal to marry her offender would result in her death to “protect her family’s honour”.

The study also revealed that 71 per cent of surveyed Jordanians are opposed to allowing perpetrators to escape punishment if they marry their victims as stipulated in Article 308 of the Penal Code.

Meanwhile, 73 per cent of Jordanians believe that the reason victims are wed to their sexual offenders stems from shame and honour. 

The findings were released during a one-day event organised by the Sisterhood is Global Institute (SIGI) Jordan Office and supported by a USAID-supported project implemented by FHI360, a nonprofit human development organisation dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions.

The study also revealed that many of the survivors who married their sexual offenders ended up divorced before the three to five year legal period ended, and there was no legal prosecution by any party despite this breach.

There is no coordination between the Chief Islamic Justice Department and the Ministry of Justice to prosecute convicted sexual offenders who end up divorcing their victims before the end of the legally mandated period, according to the study.

The workshop, which was held at the Landmark Hotel, was attended by activists, lawyers, government officials and representatives of 45 local organisations from the Kingdom’s various governorates with the aim of abolishing Article 308 of the Penal Code.

Under the provision, rapists, molesters and individuals engaged in consensual sex with victims who are under the age of 18 are  spared punishment or legal prosecution if they marry their victims and stay with them for three years (in misdemeanour convictions) or five years (criminal conviction).

The study, which surveyed 850 (771 responded, including 50.2 per cent who were females) people from various governorates in Jordan, is part of a project implemented by SIGI, titled “Najah” (survivor), for protecting sexual crime survivors and preventing perpetrators from escaping punishment, according to lawyer Lubna Duwani, director of SIGI.

The study aimed at exploring society’s acceptance or rejection of scrapping Article 308 as well as learning more about the suffering of survivors and the real motives behind marriages that result from assault, said Duwani.

Meanwhile, SIGI’s chairwoman, and former minister and lawyer, Asma Khader announced during the event the establishment of a national coalition to demand the cancelation of Article 308 from the Penal Code.

“We know that the government made some amendments but we want the entire article to be erased from our law books,” stressed Khader, who is also an activist. 

Activists recently said that because of Article 308, “a staggering 95 per cent of rapists continue to go unpunished.”

Lawyers, journalists, activists, and Muslim and Christian scholars have repeatedly called for the elimination of Article 308 and the adoption of 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.”

All proposed changes to the Penal Code are “currently under review by Jordan’s Legislation and Opinion Bureau” which is affiliated with the Prime Ministry, according to Khader.

 

They must pass through both Houses of Parliament and receive His Majesty’s approval before they can go into effect, Khader added.

 

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