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In historic vote, House abolishes controversial Article 308

By Rana Husseini - Aug 01,2017 - Last updated at Aug 01,2017

Activists stage a sit-in in front of Parliament on Tuesday ahead of a morning session that ended with the Lower House voting to abolish Article 308 of the Penal Code

AMMAN — In a historic vote on Tuesday, the Lower House of Parliament decided to abolish the controversial Article 308 of the Penal Code that allowed sexual assault perpetrators to escape punishment by marrying the victims.

Following a heated 30-minute session and a public vote by members, Speaker of the Lower House Atef Tarawneh declared that Article 308 is voted down.

Tarawneh’s announcement was met with cheers and applause by more than 200 men and women from the local civil movement in Jordan who attended the session to voice their rejection of Article 308.

Prime Minister Hani Mulki had reiterated the government’s stand concerning Article 308 in a brief remark before the voting session commenced.

“We thank everyone who worked on amending Article 308 of the Penal Code because it comes in contravention of our values,” Mulki told the MPs in the session, which was also attended by several members of the Senate which will debate the same article when they convene.

Mulki stressed that the government is committed to abolishing Article 308 in order to protect Jordanian family values.

The draft Penal Code and Article 308 in specific was under the heat at the Lower House of Parliament and within the civil society and government officials with many calling for abolishing it from the Penal Code.

Activists and civil society groups staged a sit-in before the session was to commence on Tuesday morning in front of the Parliament to reiterate their demands for the complete abolition of controversial Article 308.

A Royal committee had suggested abolishing the article in February and the government endorsed the decision shortly afterwards.

However, during two Lower House sessions held on Sunday, several lawmakers suggested amending the article instead of scrapping it altogether and the Legal Committee at the Lower House 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”.

A handful of deputies spoke during the session including the President of the Legal Committee at the Lower House of Parliament Mustafa Khasawneh, who defended the committee’s decision to allow for exceptions.

“Today we are legally, socially, morally, tribally, and nationally obligated to accept the amendments because this is in favour of women and the family,” Khasawneh argued.

MP Abdul Karim Dughmi, Raed Khazaleh and Mustafa Yaghi expressed their reservations, saying that “the Lower House should adopt the legal committee’s recommendations to preserve the rights of the victims and avoid any further social complications that might take place”.

Meanwhile, Deputy Khamis Atieh and Ahmad Saber called for abolishing Article 308 altogether.

The MPs then engaged in a heated debate on whether to adopt the recommendations or accept the government’s recommendations.

Tarawneh called for a vote and the MPs voted in favour of  rejecting the Lower House’s Legal Committee recommendations and accepting the government’s proposal. 

Several women activists representing 63 local organisations took to social media to organise a campaign lobbying the Lower House to abolish Article 308, rather than adopt any amendments.

They also circulated an electronic petition calling for the cancelation of Article 308, which has so far been signed by over 5,000 people.

Meanwhile, The Senate’s Legal Committee on Tuesday approved the amendments approved by the Lower House to the Penal Code, including the abolishment of Article 308. 

The meeting was attended by Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs Musa Maaytah, Minister of Justice Awad Mashagbeh, Head of Legislation and Opinion Bureau Nofan Ajarmeh, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported. 

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