Jordanian Parliament Annuls Rape Law

A legislative provision, which allowed rapists to escape punishment in the event that they married their victims was repealed by Parliament on Tuesday in Jordan, Al Jazeera reports.

At a Parliamentary session on Tuesday, which was attended by Jordan’s Prime Minister, Hani al-Mulqi,  a majority vote saw the abolition of the law. The provision, which has long been regarded as discriminatory and an unfair method of exemption, came into operation in the early 1960’s.

Hundreds of activists and locals protested outside parliament on Tuesday, calling for the repeal of the entire provision. The protests come after a series of similar petitions were launched in recent months.

The controversial law, Article 308, pardons rapists if they marry their victims and stay in a committed union with them for a minimum three year period. The provision was initially written to protect women’s ‘honour.’ However, many Jordanians consider the article a blatant violation of human rights.

Salma Nims, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, expressed utter jubilation at Tuesday’s announcement. “We are celebrating today. This is a historic moment not only for Jordan, but for the entire region. This achievement is a result of the concerted effort of the civil society, women’s rights and human rights organizations in Jordan,” Nims stated.

In addition, parliamentarian, Khaled Ramadan, was equally pleased with the results of the Senate vote. “This is a historic day in Jordan’s history,” Ramadan said. “After 57 years of this law, this is an important step towards societal reform and for equality. Today we are sending a message to every rapist that ‘your crime will not be overlooked and we will not let you get away with it.”

However, not all parliamentarians were in favour of the provision’s annulment.

According to Nims, there was a “strong push back from some parliamentarians not to abolish the provision, but to only amend it until the last minute.” In fact, “We were really worried, but our efforts were successful,” she said. “What we need to do is to work on amending the complete set of laws that affect the status of women in Jordan – specifically the personal status law and other laws that impact the life of women in Jordan and affect their rights in terms of equality,” she added.

Unfortunately, similar rape-marriage provisions remain in force in Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, and Syria, as well as a number of countries in Asia and Latin America.

Jordan, however, isn’t the first country to repeal this law from its penal code. In the past four decades, many countries have successfully fought to abolish such provisions, including Italy in 1981, France in 1994, Egypt in 1999, Romania in 2000, Morocco in 2014, and Tunisia just last week.

Hopefully, Jordan’s latest move to abolish its rape laws will have a similar influence on countries currently retaining such provisions.