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Legal experts call for scrapping controversial rape provision in Penal Code

By Dana Al Emam - Apr 26,2016 - Last updated at Apr 26,2016

AMMAN — Legal experts on Tuesday called for the complete cancellation of Article 308 of the Penal Code, as the clause that the recent amendments kept unchanged is still “faulty”.

The Cabinet has recently endorsed a decision to scrap a clause in the controversial provision that had allowed sexual predators to escape punishment if they marry their victims, but kept one clause allowing marriage in incidents involving female minors aged 15 to 18 if the sexual activity was consensual.  

Speaking at a lecture at the University of Jordan (UJ), Hassan Tarawneh, a professor of law at the UJ and a member of the Justice Ministry’s committee to revise the Penal Code, said Article 308 incites social and legal controversy, in spite of the recent amendment.

He said the remaining clause may contradict the illegitimacy of marriage in case of incest, or if there is a lawful impediment to a legal marriage, such as being married to two sisters at the same time or if a man marries his divorced wife before she marries another man and gets a divorce.

The article allows sexual assault perpetrators to escape punishment if they marry their victims, provided that they remain married for periods ranging from three to five years, depending on the nature of the sexual assault.

Tarawneh said the married couple might have a lawful justification for divorce during that period, or might not have a lawful justification for divorce after the completion of the set duration, which makes marriage a mere pretext for escaping punishment and does not provide stability, a central aim of matrimony.

He called for the complete cancellation of Article 308 because it “fails” to fulfil its general goal of preventing this type of crime from becoming a phenomenon, as well as the private goal of penalising violators, as they often repeat the violation after escaping punishment.    

The law professor said the remaining clause discriminates against women and spares inciters, who do not physically take part in the crime, from punishment.

The committee that reviewed the Penal Code, he said, consisted of 13 members, nine of whom voted for keeping the clause on sexual assaults against underage girls between 15 and 18; therefore, the decision was taken according to the majority rule.

Representing the Jordanian National Commission for Women, legal consultant Amal Haddadin argued that the remaining clause compels underage girls to accept marrying their rapists in order to avoid social disgrace and stigma.

She noted that the two sides, in such cases, do not have “true intentions” for marriage.

The legal text, according to Haddadin, takes into consideration underage girls’ consent to performing a sexual act, but still considers them “victims”. 

She stressed that girls under the age of 18 are children and cannot take full responsibility for their decisions, especially that aggressors might lure them or trick them into performing the sexual act.

 

The legal expert noted that in 2013, Jordan presented its comprehensive report on human rights to the UN, where the Kingdom was heavily criticised over Article 308 of the Penal Code.

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