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Debate continues as Article 308 on way to Lower House's vote

Some MPs announce plan to form lobby to call for amending article

By Rana Husseini - May 31,2017 - Last updated at May 31,2017

Lawmakers are set to vote on recent recommendations made by a Royal committee to annul Article 308 of the Penal Code (Photo by Amjad Ghsoun)

AMMAN — Activists and former officials have speculated that recent recommendations made by a Royal committee to annul Article 308 of the Penal Code — which allows rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victims — will pass, despite some opposition in the Lower House of Parliament.

In February, the Royal Committee for Developing the Judiciary and Enhancing the Rule of Law, which was tasked with revising the Jordanian Penal Code for the year 1960, suggested scrapping Article 308 from the Penal Code. 

The controversial article allows sexual assault perpetrators to escape punishment if they marry their victims.

In late April, the Lower House referred the amended Penal Code to the House Legal Committee. The referral followed the Cabinet's approval of the amended law, in order to implement the recommendations of the Royal Committee.

Before the amended Penal Code was referred to the Legal Committee, however, some deputies expressed their opposition to several articles, including Article 308.

Balqa Deputy Mustafa Yaghi, one of those who objected during a Lower House session in April, and was later interviewed by The Jordan Times.

“I am not in favour of scrapping the article entirely.  I believe it should be amended to give room for cases where people involved in a case of rape can eventually get married," Yaghi explained.

He said he plans to form a lobby of MPs to call for amending the article.

“I am for women’s rights in Jordan, but I also believe in giving options in cases of sexual assault because, at the end of the day, we have to respect our traditions, which in this case could spare women's lives and prevent any harm that could be committed against them,” Yaghi, who is also a lawyer, argued.

He added that he is “certain that the government and the Royal Committee made the amendment to appease the West and for funding purposes”.

“I believe it is all about funding and pleasing the West by showing them that Jordan is working to improve women’s rights.  That is another reason why I will lobby hard against this law under the Dome,” Yaghi added.

For years, Article 308 has been heavily criticised by women and rights activists, as it allows sexual assault perpetrators to avoid punishment if they marry their victim, provided that they remain married for three to five years, depending on the nature of the sexual assault.

When the Royal Committee scrapped the article in February, the women’s movement had hailed the decision as a "historic step", a "big victory" and a long-awaited positive achievement for women in Jordan.

MP Saleh Armouti’s disagreed with Yaghi's position, saying that “he will exert all his effort, and that of my party [the National Coalition for Reform led by the Islamic Action Front] to cancel the entire article.”

Armouti [Amman, 3rd District], a former president of the Jordan Bar Association, said he was “always against Article 308” because it “contradicts the dignity of women and their humanity in our society”.

“We cannot force a woman to marry her rapist. This will not solve our social problems,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, head of the House’s Legal Committee MP Mustafa Khasawneh told The Jordan Times in a recent interview that the “committee supports the annulment of Article 308, because we believe there has been so much injustice caused, and because we know that many criminals have secured undeserved freedom because of it”. 

Jerash Deputy Wafaa Bani Mustafa also stressed that she will fight for Article 308 to be scrapped from the law, but added that “we still have to be careful because some deputies are against it.”

“It is not going to be easy and we have to lobby hard if we want this article to pass in the Lower House,” Bani Mustafa, who is the head of the Jordanian Women Parliamentarian Forum, told The Jordan Times recently.

For Sisterhood Is Global Institute (SIGI) president and former minister Asma Khader, she fully supports the scrapping of the entire article.

“I expect it to pass, although there will be opposition by some deputies and I am in favour of scrapping it entirely,” she told The Jordan Times.

She added that legislators should take into consideration other “issues that could arise from rape, such as unwanted pregnancies”.

“Many of the individuals who oppose the changes do so fearing that a woman might get pregnant out of a rape and they believe that marrying her off to her rapist is the solution,” Khader stated.

But she added that there is a solution: “I would suggest that the government amend Article 12 of the General Health Law that allows abortion in cases where the woman’s life is in danger”.

“I would suggest adding two words to Article 12: allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest,” Khader stressed.

Former Justice Minister Bassam Talhouni said he was in favour of the amendments made by the Royal Committee, adding that he “made several amendments when he was a justice minister in favour of women’s rights in Jordan”.

“I strongly believe in removing this article because it is humiliating to women and does not solve any problem if the victim is married to her rapist,” Talhouni told The Jordan Times in a recent interview.

A former official and legal expert, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he believes that "Article 308 will pass in Parliament despite the expected opposition by some MPs in the Lower House.”


“There will be opposition, but once legislators hear the government’s opinion and justification related to Article 308, the deputies will eventually be convinced of the need to remove Article 308 from the Penal Code,” the former official told The Jordan Times.

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