Article 308 - Legislative change alone does not translate into change in community traditions

Christien van den Brink

This month, Jordan seemed at a breakthrough of historic progress on women’s rights, as the Jordanian Parliament appeared to eliminate Article 308 of the Jordanian Penal Code. Article 308 enables rapists to avoid punishment if they marry their victims for three to five years. But the campaign seeking the annulment of the controversial Article 308 of the Penal Code has hit a snag after the Lower House’s Legal Committee recommended to amend the article instead of scrapping it, reversing its initial stand. The House started to deliberate a new version of code last week, including article 308, sparking protests from activist groups in Jordan during the weekend. According to Jordan Times, lawmakers also agreed to postpone the long-awaited discussion and vote on Article 308.

In its existing version, Article 308 states that if a valid marriage contract is held between the rapist and his victim and the marriage lasts for three years at least, the charges will be dropped and if a verdict has already been issued, the punishment will be suspended.

ARDD continues to advocate for scrapping the article, but we also believe that legislative change alone does not translate into change in community traditions and customs, especially those which are deeply rooted. Unless legislation is accompanied by coordinated sensitization campaigns that focus on addressing the root causes of (sexual) violence against women, the community will continue to seek collective justice to restore the “honor” and “public ethics,” and disregard the rights of survivors.

To this end, the Jordanian legislative perspective must acknowledge the individual survivor as the primary subject whom holds the right to justice, safety and support. Jordan is obligated to adopt this perspective in order to live up to International Standards regarding survivors’ rights.

As ARDD continues to advocate for the abolishment of article 308, it also recommends that the Parliament turns its attention to other articles in the Penal Code that discriminate against women, such as Personal Status Law. ARDD recommends updating provisions contained in that law (including Articles 157 and 223) to ensure that women, regardless of marital status, have equal rights as men that can be passed on to their children.

In addition, ARDD pleads for the initiation of institutionalized gender-sensitive training programmes and capacity-building programmes on violence against women and on the new legislation for police and judicial officials. Secondly, a specialized prosecutor’s unit and specialized police unit on violence against women should be established. Survivors must have the option of communicating with female police officers or prosecutors.

For more information on ARDD’s position on Article 308, visit here

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