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Activists seek to generate momentum against controversial rape article in Penal Code

By Laila Azzeh - Nov 24,2016 - Last updated at Nov 24,2016

AMMAN – Repealing Article 308 of the Penal Code continues to be a top priority for organisations seeking a better life for Jordanian women.

With the launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in Jordan, themed “Stop the killing of women and girls”, activists, lawmakers and media figures reiterated the need to scrap the “inhumane” article.

Article 308 stipulates that rapists, molesters and individuals engaged in sex with girls 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).

But the government recently amended the article, scrapping pardon in cases of rape, even if the perpetrator offered to marry the victim, but allowing perpetrators of sexual assaults to escape punishment if the victim was between the ages of 15 and 18, and it was consensual.

Officials have said the reason they kept a window for pardon in cases where the victim is between the ages of 15 and 18 was “to protect her, because in some instances she could be harmed or killed by her family if she does not marry her rapist”.

To mark the launch of the 16-day campaign, the Sisterhood Is Global Institute – Jordan (SIGI) and the Jordanian Civil Coalition to Cancel 308, which now includes 106 organisations, held a panel discussion that highlighted the injustices women face due to laws formulated to satisfy social norms.

“Article 308 will be deliberated in the Lower House’s ordinary session as part of the Penal Code. We will push for scrapping the article or at least come up with amendments that ensure the safety of girls, such as excluding minors from the law,” MP Wafaa Bani Mustafa said.

One of the major findings of a study conducted by the coalition against Article 308 revealed that 92 per cent of surveyed Jordanians encourage rape victims to file a complaint against the abuser, while 54 per cent do not encourage the victim to marry her rapist.

Only 12 per cent of the surveyed supported Article 308; however, 53 per cent believe that freeing perpetrators from punishment if they marry their victims encourages sexual crimes.

Asma Khader, the president of SIGI in Jordan, underlined the importance of the 16-day campaign in shedding light on the injustices of Article 308 and creating social momentum against it.

Joumana Ghuneimat, editor-in-chief of Al Ghad Arabic daily, agreed, stressing that the need for the media to have an “ethical and conscientious stance against Article 308”.

The event included the screening of a short video depicting the true story of a girl who was forced to marry her sexual assailant under the law.

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