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Women’s rights activists publish position paper on rape-related issues

By Rana Husseini - Nov 05,2017 - Last updated at Nov 05,2017

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AMMAN — Women activists and representatives from the civil society on Sunday released a position paper that offers more solutions for victims of rape and other forms of violence, including allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest. 

The group, representing over 60 organisations in Jordan, also reiterated its stance regarding the abolition of Article 308, saying it is the first of many reform steps to form a comprehensive legal campaign for women in the Kingdom, according to a statement released to the press on Saturday.

Jordanian Women’s Union lawyer Hala Ahed said the position paper, which was prepared by over 60 women groups and civil society organisations, aims to tackle more “discriminatory laws that fail to offer protection for women and children in various ways”.

“I believe it is about time to address the issue of abortion in cases of rape and incest to two months into the pregnancy.  It is against humanity that a woman for example gives birth to a child who is the result of sexual assault by family members,” Ahed told The Jordan Times.

Jordan allows abortions only in cases when the pregnancy poses a danger to the life of the expecting mother.

In 2014, the Iftaa Department issued a fatwa that condemned rape and incest, which are grave violations in Islam, and said that any woman subjected to such incidents should visit the department for an examination of the case, after which a fatwa would be issued “that would be beneficial to the victim”.

The paper is a way of demonstrating that the government and relevant organisations provide “better means of protection for women from all forms of violence”, Ahed said.

“What we are doing is not new. It is a continuation of the demands of the women’s movement through the years and the idea is to advocate to all the entities that are responsible, including the government and Parliament,” Ahed added.    

Turning to Article 308, the statement said that abolishing Article 308 lifted the burden from women because “they used to be placed in a situation where they felt guilty and responsible for what happened to them”.  

Based on a recommendation by a Royal committee and the endorsement of the government, the Lower House in August voted to abolish the controversial Article 308 of the Penal Code, which became effective on November 1 after the law was published in the Official Gazette. 

Former minister Asma Khader said the position paper is “a tool to think of future plans, especially after Article 308 was cancelled”.

“We are tackling the part of protection for women and children following the amendments and abolishment of many laws pertaining to women in the Penal Code,” Khader told The Jordan Times.

The draft Penal Code in general, and Article 308 in particular, were subject to heated debate under the Dome, with civil society and among government officials, with many calling for the complete scrapping of the article from the Penal Code.

The Lower House’s Legal Committee had made three suggestions, which included exceptions in incidents of consensual sex and sexual molestation of victims aged between 15 and 18 years old.

A third exception was proposed for anyone who “seduces a virgin over 18 years of age with the promise of marriage and caused her to lose her virginity”.

Critics who opposed abolishing the law had claimed that “repealing the article altogether would cause a risk on the lives of women between the ages of 15 and 18 and would result in children being born without fathers in cases of pregnancy”. 

Other recommendations posted in the position paper included calling for the use of DNA in paternity dispute cases in order to protect the rights of children.

“The legislators depend on marriage to prove the paternity of a child.  What about cases of rape or incest?  The science should be used here to protect the rights of the victims and the child,” Khader, an activist, added.

The position paper also made recommendations that called for ending the exceptions in cases of the marriage of girls between 15 and 18 years old.

The Personal Status Law outlined exceptions to allow such marriages including provisions that allow a maximum age difference of 15-years or less between the husband and the wife, provided that the would-be husband is not married and that marriage would not prevent the girl from pursuing her education.

Under the suggested law, the judge will have the authority to decide if girls between 15 and 18 getting married would be in their best interest and permit the registration of the marriage contract.  

 Jordanian National Commission for Women Secretary General Salma Nims said that the paper is part of ongoing efforts exerted by the women’s movement over more than two decades and aims to unify these efforts to make the necessary lobbying among the decision makers”.

“I believe each organisation and entity should assume its role in working on certain matters that relate to protecting women from violence,” Nims told The Jordan Times.


“We want to send a clear and strong message that our work in protecting and advancing women’s rights in Jordan will never end.  We should take advantage of the positive changes that happened recently to continue fighting for our rights,” She concluded.

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