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‘Victory’ for women’s rights groups as Cabinet votes to scrap Article 308

By Rana Husseini - Apr 24,2017 - Last updated at Apr 24,2017

AMMAN — The women’s movement on Monday hailed as a “victory” Sunday’s Cabinet decision to scrap the controversial Article 308 from the Penal Code, which pardons rapists if they marry their victims.

In February, the Royal Committee for Developing the Judiciary and Enhancing the Rule of Law suggested scrapping a law that allows sexual assault perpetrators to escape punishment if they marry their victims, as well as other laws reducing punishment for men who commit crimes against women.

The panel, made up of 10 judicial experts and chaired by former prime minister Zeid Rifai, handed His Majesty King Abdullah the report in February, following four months of discussions. 

They also handed a copy to the government for revision and endorsement.

On Sunday, the Cabinet endorsed the Royal committee’s recommendation to entirely scrap Article 308.

“This is a big victory and a long-awaited positive achievement for women in Jordan,” activist Laila Naffa said.

She expressed hope that the “process will go smoothly once the bill is sent to the Lower and Upper Houses for debate”.

“We are optimistic that the bill will pass as smoothly as it did with the Cabinet,” Naffa, who is the programme director of the Arab Women Organisation, told The Jordan Times.

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.

The article had already been amended in 2016, scrapping pardon in cases of rape, while keeping a clause that pardoned perpetrators if they married the victim if she is aged between 15 and 18, and if the affair was regarded as “consensual”.

Sisterhood Is Global Institute (SIGI) also issued a statement welcoming the recommendations, describing the Cabinet’s decision as a “victory for the rule of law, ending the practice that allowed men to get away with punishments in cases of sexual assault”.

“This step ensures legal justice for women and children in cases of sexual assault, and constitutes one more step towards ending legal discrimination against women and children in Jordan,” the SIGI statement said.

Officials had justified the option of a pardon in cases where the victim is between 15 and 18, in order “to protect her [the victim], because in some instances, she could be harmed or killed by her family if she did not marry her rapist”.

But the amendment was met with fierce opposition by women’s advocates, who argued that individuals under the age of 18 are considered children and cannot weigh the consequences of their actions.

Jordanian Women’s Union Director General Nadia Shamroukh welcomed the recent move, calling the Cabinet’s decision “a great victory for women in Jordan”.

The old article “basically approved the crime of rape, but the new amendment scrapped all that”, Shamroukh told The Jordan Times.

“I do not believe that any of our deputies or senators will approve of such a crime that is committed against women, and they will surely vote to cancel it altogether,” she said.

However, Jerash Deputy Wafaa Bani Mustafa expressed caution about the Lower House’s stand on the issue.

“There might be resistance by the deputies because we have seen some who resisted laws that tackled women’s rights in previous sessions,” Bani Mustafa told The Jordan Times.

The Jerash MP, who is the head of the Jordanian Women Parliamentarian Forum, said she was hopeful that “the government will succeed in convincing deputies under the Dome of the importance of cancelling this article”.


Nevertheless, Bani Mustafa said the Cabinet’s decision on Sunday was “historic and a step that we have been awaiting for years”.

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