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Activists to form legal committee to address potential loopholes resulting from abolition of Article 308

By Rana Husseini - Aug 06,2017 - Last updated at Aug 06,2017

AMMAN —  The Jordanian women’s coalition that lobbied for abolisihing Article 308, which allowed sexual assault offenders to avoid punishement if they marry their victims, on Sunday announced the formation of a legal committee to address the loopholes that might occur as a result of abolishing the article.

Based on a recommendation by a Royal committee and the endorsement of the government, the Lower House on Tuesday voted to abolish the controversial Article 308 of the Penal Code.

During a two-hour meeting held at the headquarters of the Jordanian Women’s Union (JWU), the coalition members agreed to form a legal committee to “rapidly examine all the laws and regulations that would tackle loopholes that would result from scrapping the article, prepare a position paper and present their findings to the government for a swift action".

JWU President Tahani Shakhshir told the gathering that the abolishment of Article 308 was the result of “tireless efforts by the women’s movement since the mid-1990s that presented comprehensive solutions to decision-makers to tackle this article and other articles that discriminate against women”.

“The success of repealing Article 308 and the debate that occurred afterwards are a good lesson for the women’s movement and they will allow us to evaluate our work and build on it for the future,” Shakhsir told the gathering.

Meanwhile, Regional Director and Head of Programmes for Ruwwad Al Tanmeya Samar Dudin said individuals who opposed the abolishment of Article 308 are looking at it “from a class angle”. 

“Most of the individuals who are against what happened are not thinking about the poor who might be affected by the issue and need the utmost protection. Abolishing this article provides them with the justice and protection they need,” Dudin said. 

Lawyer and activist Noor Imam, one of the members of the Legal Committee formed on Sunday  said that “the committee will do a comprehensive review of all the articles that need amendments in various laws in order to guarantee full protection for sexually assaulted women”.

“The committee will meet next week to revise laws, list its suggestions and draft recommendations for what the civil society’s responsibilities should be in the process. It will then hand it over to the government for legal action,” Imam said.

The draft Penal Code in general, and Article 308 in particular, were subject to heated debate under the Dome, within civil society and among government officials, with many calling for the complete scrapping of the article from the Penal Code.

The Lower House’s Legal Committee had made three suggestions which included exceptions in incidents of consensual sex and sexual molestation of victims aged between 15 and 18 years old.
A third exception was proposed for anyone who “seduces a virgin over 18 years of age with the promise of marriage and caused her to lose her virginity”.

The coalition, representing over 70 local organisations, took to social media last week to lobby the deputies to repeal the article altogether following the news that the Lower House’s Legal Committee had decided to amend the article instead of abolishing it.

Critics who opposed abolishing the law had claimed that “repealing the article altogether would cause a risk on the lives of women between the ages of 15 and 18 and would result in children being born without fathers in cases of pregnancy”.
But a member of the Royal Committee for Developing the Judiciary and Enhancing the Rule of Law, which examined the Jordanian Penal Code for the year 1960 for four months, and made its final recommendations in February, said “the members were aware of the loopholes that would result from abolishing the article”.

“We were aware of all the implications that could result from abolishing the article but, to us, the Criminal Code is about punishment and criminal offences, not to give solutions for offenders,” the member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Jordan Times.

The implications of abolishing this article should be tackled by “the civil society as well as other laws and regulations that are related for example to health, juveniles and so forth,” the member added.

“There is a thin line between deceiving and consensual acts,” the member added. 

“We are looking at hundreds of possibilities that might occur in incidents of consensual sex, such as between two minors, a minor and an adult or vice versa, pregnancy or not, old age and young age. It would be impossible for one law to tackle all of these instances and it would surely not be the responsibility of the Penal Code to resolve them,” the member concluded.

 

The Senate approved the Penal Code, including Article 308’s abolishment, as it came from the Lower House last week.
The Penal Code will now need to be endorsed by a Royal Decree, then published in the Official Gazette.

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