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Civil coalition launched to demand scrapping provision allowing rapists to marry victims

By Rana Husseini - Nov 26,2015 - Last updated at Nov 26,2015

AMMAN — Shorouq was 22 years old when her employer raped her; she became pregnant and her son was taken away from her.

Shorouq, not her real name, told her story from behind a curtain at the Regency Hotel during the launch of a civil coalition campaign demanding the cancellation of Article 308 of the Penal Code.

Article 308 stipulates that rapists, molesters and individuals engaged in consensual 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).

“He was 49 and he tricked me and my family by pretending to be a good and trustworthy man... in the beginning he treated me like his daughter,” Shorouq said.

The woman, who paused for few seconds because she was crying, said her employer raped her six months after she started working at his house and shop and she became pregnant.

“I was afraid to tell anyone about my pregnancy in the beginning out of fear that my family would kill me in the name of family honour,” she said.

But her family was understanding and she filed a complaint against him after he divorced her and he was imprisoned.

“He used Article 308 and married me to avoid going to prison then divorced me and refused to admit that the child was his,” she said in a shaky voice.

A DNA test conducted by the court indicated that he was the biological father, Shorouq added.

The child was taken away from her. 

“I want my son back. Please help me,” she pleaded to civil society representatives, lawyers, journalists and activists attending the launch. 

Asma Khader, a former minister and current chairwoman of Sisterhood is Global Institute (SIGI) in Jordan said Article 308 should be scrapped.

 “This article came to our law books from the Napoleonic Code, which stemmed from a patriarchal society that aimed at controlling women’s bodies," Khader said.

"It is not part of our culture or religion, and it is insulting to women in Jordan," she added, noting that France cancelled a similar provision in 1994, Spain in the mid-1980s and Egypt and Morocco in previous years.

“I don't see why we cannot cancel this article here in Jordan,” said Senator Mai Abul Samen, who acted as patron at the launch.

“Article 308 constitutes two crimes against women — the rape incident that goes unpunished and then marrying the victim to her rapist,” Abul Samen added.

“This law should be scrapped from our Penal Code and it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that this step is taken adequately and seriously.”

All proposed changes to the Penal Code, including Article 308, are “currently under review by the Legislation and Opinion Bureau” which is affiliated with the Prime Ministry.

They must pass through both Houses of Parliament and receive the King’s ratification before they can go into effect.

The one-day event, part of the Kingdom’s activities to mark 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, was organised by the SIGI Jordan office and supported by a USAID-funded project implemented by FHI360, a nonprofit human development organisation dedicated to improving lives by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions.

Other activities include radio statements as well as TV interviews and workshops in various parts of the Kingdom.

SIGI’s campaign to scrap the controversial provision, organised with a coalition comprising 52 civil community organisations, includes daily messages in a local daily on the results of a study it conducted to reflect Jordanians' attitudes towards Article 308.

One of the major findings of the study revealed that 71 per cent of surveyed Jordanians were opposed to allowing perpetrators to escape punishment if they marry their victims as stipulated in Article 308.

Meanwhile, 73 per cent cited shame and honour as the reasons why victims are wed to their sexual offenders. The study also revealed that many of the women 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.

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.”

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