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MP to push for scrapping controversial rape article from draft penal code

By Rana Husseini - Apr 25,2016 - Last updated at Apr 25,2016

AMMAN — The notorious Article 308 of the Penal Code has been referred to the Lower House Legal Committee for examination, MP Wafaa Bani Mustafa said on Monday.

“The draft penal code with several amendments, including to Article 308, was referred to the Legal Committee for consideration,” Bani Mustafa (Jerash 1st District) told The Jordan Times.

The controversial provision has been under heavy criticism by women and rights activists because it allows sexual assault perpetrators to escape punishment if they marry their victims, provided that they remain married to their victims for periods ranging from three to five years, depending on the nature of the sexual assault.

But the government recently amended the article, scrapping pardon in cases of rape, even if the perpetrator offered to marry his 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”.

But Bani Mustafa, who in December 2013, lobbied with a group of deputies to scrap Article 308, said she was not convinced by the government’s justification.

“This article is unjust towards victims of rape and is unacceptable from a religious and social perspective, it should be taken out of our legal books. We will fight it under the Dome,” the deputy, who is a lawyer, stressed.

But Bani Mustafa was quick to add that “if we do not get the necessary support from our colleagues to scrap it all together, then the fight will be to maintain what the government has suggested in its draft law”.

Women activists and civil society organisations were not entirely content with the amendments, because “individuals under the age of 18 are considered children and cannot weigh the consequences of their actions and decisions".

Justice Minister Bassam Talhouni defended the decision, saying “this is the best that we were able to do”.

“Forcing raped females to marry their perpetrators in incidents of rape was causing major social and legal problems as well as to the victims who had to marry their abusers,” the minister explained.

But Talhouni told The Jordan Times that “allowing females aged 15-18 to marry in cases of consensual sex was meant to protect them, especially since it is consensual and she willingly accepted to get married.”

Meanwhile, HRH Princess Basma posted a statement on her official Facebook page on Sunday calling for scrapping Article 308 altogether.

“The amendment to Article 308 of the Jordanian Penal Code which formerly allowed perpetrators of sexual assault to evade punishment if they married their victims is a significant but piecemeal step towards combating gender based violence and discrimination in legislation,” Princess Basma wrote.

Fundamentally, she added, "308 continues to deny some of the basic rights of child victims between 15 [and] 18, who are essentially most vulnerable to pressures from adults and society. It is therefore absolutely crucial that we continue to lobby, demand and advocate for the complete abolishment of Article 308.”

 

If the new Penal Code is passed by Parliament, it must then be ratified by the King. It goes into effect upon its publication in the Official Gazette, according to the Constitution.

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