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‘Projected Penal Code amendment scraps article pardoning rapists who marry victims’

By Rana Husseini - Apr 06,2015 - Last updated at Apr 06,2015

AMMAN — A ministerial committee examining the Penal Code has recently decided to make amendments to the controversial Article 308 that pardons rapists if they marry their victims, a senior judicial source and activists said.

The legal committee at the Justice Ministry has been reviewing several clauses in the Penal Code for the year 1960 for the past eight months, said Issa Maraziq, head of the legislative unit at the National Centre for Human Rights.

“The committee has decided to cancel the clause that allows a rapist to avoid punishment if he marries his victim,” Maraziq, who is a member in the committee, told The Jordan Times.

“The recommendations are not final because it is a draft law but this is what the committee suggested with regards to Article 308,” he added.

A senior judicial source said the “committee kept the pardon if the incident involved women between the ages of 15 and 18 and was consensual”.

Under the Penal Code, sexual intercourse with women aged 15 to 18 is considered rape.

“We agreed with women’s rights groups that if it was proven in court that the sexual activity was consensual in these cases, the punishment is dropped if they tie the knot,” the source, who is also a committee member, told The Jordan Times on condition of anonymity.

In its current form, Article 308 of the Penal Code states that rapists are spared from punishment or legal prosecution if they marry their victims and stay with them for five years. 

“Our suggestion is to cancel this alternative for convicted rapists and simply have them tried for their crime as stipulated in the law,” Maraziq said.

An official from the Ministry of Justice said “the draft law will have to go through many legal channels before it is approved.”

“The draft law still needs to be finalised by the committee, then sent to the legal bureau at the Cabinet, then to Parliament and finally ratified by a Royal Decree,” the ministry source told The Jordan Times.

On Wednesday, the committee is expected to meet to finalise the amended draft before forwarding it to the Legislation and Opinion Bureau, the senior judicial source said.

Activists have said recently that “a staggering 95 per cent of rapists continue to go unpunished under Article 308.”

Lawyers, journalists, activists, and Muslim and Christian scholars have repeatedly called for eliminating Article 308 and adopting 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.”

In December, HRH Princess Basma urged the local media to raise the level of debate on the controversial Article 308, saying “it is the role of the media to build a unified stand against it and to raise the level of debate to make it a public opinion issue.” 

Princess Basma said during a local event in Amman that Egypt cancelled a similar provision a few years ago and Morocco followed suit in 2014.

“If these two countries were able to do it, I don’t see any reason why we cannot do it here as well in Jordan,” Princess Basma said at the time.

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