In a major step forward for women and their allies, Jordanian parliament has narrowly voted to eliminate a law that grants leniency to rapists if they marry their victims.
According to The Independent, current Jordanian law sentences convicted rapists to a maximum of seven years in prison. If the victim is 15 years old or younger, a judge may rule that the rapist deserves to be lashed or receive another form of capital punishment. However, Article 308 provides a loophole that creates a living nightmare for women who are raped: If the rapist marries his victim for a minimum of three years, he escapes punishment altogether.
France 24 spoke with an anonymous woman in 2015 who had been a victim both of rape and the loophole. She was sexually assaulted by her boss, but then presented with a marriage contract so that he could escape a potential 15-year sentence. Once married to her rapist, she said that he continued to rape her, and yet his actions at this point on fell within Jordanian jurisprudence. She told reporters that law enforcement "only detained him once, so he would marry me. That's it. Just to get married and that was it."
"Marry the victim" laws are sadly commonplace in the Middle East, as they often stem from draconian interpretations of Sharia, but recently governments have begun listening to activists campaigning for reform. Jordan is following in the footsteps of Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, and Lebanon and Bahrain are both considering repealing similar laws.
The Independent notes the importance of Jordanian parliament's decision, as they could have voted to merely amend the law, but instead voted to remove it entirely. It's an indication that attitudes toward women are changing, slowly, but nonetheless.
"We still have a lot of work to do, when it comes to domestic violence and family law," Suad Abu Dayyeh, consultant for Equality Now's Middle East and North Africa campaign, told reporters. "But still, today is a beautiful day."
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