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Jordan: Repeal of Controversial Article in Penal Code

(Aug. 8, 2017) On August 1, 2017, the majority of members of the lower house (House of Representatives) of the Jordanian parliament voted to repeal article 308 of the Penal Code, which had allowed rapists to avoid a jail term if they married the victim. (Zena Tahhan, ‘Historic Day’ as Jordanian Parliament Repeals Rape Law, AL JAZEERA (Aug. 1, 2017). ) A royal committee established in October 2016 by the order of King Abdullah II to review the Penal Code had decided to repeal article 308 in February 2016. The Council of Ministers had supported that decision.  (Id.)

The Legal Committee of the House of Representatives had made recommendations to amend article 308 instead of totally abolishing it. It suggested: 1) allowing individuals who have consensual sexual intercourse with females between 15 and 18 years of age to marry the girl instead of going to prison, and 2) compelling individuals who seduce a virgin over 18 years of age with the promise of marriage to marry the person seduced. However, the majority of the members voted to reject those recommendations.  (Jordan: Seize Opportunity to End Impunity for Rape, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (Aug. 1, 2017).)

The abolishment of the article came after 63 women’s rights organizations launched a public awareness campaign via social media to lobby members of the House to abolish article 308 rather than adopt any of the recommendations issued by the Legal Committee. (Rana Husseini, In Historic Vote, House Abolishes Controversial Article 308, JORDAN TIMES (Aug. 1, 2017).)

On the other hand, supporters of article 308 claim that the provision is necessary to protect women’s “honor.” (Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)’: A Good Week for Arab Women’s Rights, AL-BAWABA (Aug. 1, 2017).) According to news reports, in 2016, Jordan recorded 160 rape incidents.  (Jordan: Abolishment of a Law That Allows the Rapist to Avoid Punishment If He Marries His Victim, FRANCE24 (last updated Aug. 2, 2017) (in Arabic).)