For decades, rapists in Jordan have been able to skirt punishment by agreeing to marry their victims thanks to a section of the kingdom's penal code that has long been criticized as archaic, inhumane, and psychologically harmful. Now, however, Jordan appears closer to abolishing the controversial rape provision than ever in a move many women's rights groups have long awaited.
Article 308 of Jordan's penal code enables a rapist to avoid serving a prison sentence by marrying their victim for at least three years. According to the Los Angeles Times, data from Jordan's Ministry of Justice found 159 rapists were able to avoid persecution by marrying the women they raped from 2010 to 2013, when the government stopped reporting on such figures due to the controversy the elicited. Proponents of such "marry the rapist" laws have argued they're designed to protect rape victims by enabling them to preserve their honor.
For years women's rights advocates and various international organizations have pushed for the law to be changed. Finally a recommendation from a royal judiciary committee spurred the country's Cabinet into voting to revoke Article 308 in April as part of a greater push toward reform. While their decision has reportedly been endorsed by King Abdullah it must still be formally ratified by the country's Parliament, which is expected to meet sometime next week to discuss doing just that, the Associated Press has reported.
While finalizing the abolishment of Article 308 would certainly be a major victory for women in Jordan, women's rights advocates say it won't end the deep-rooted and problematic views on rape many within the country still hold. "Many problems within Jordanian society have yet to be solved," activist Ghada Saba told al Jazeera in April. "We have to change the way our society thinks in parallel... 308 is not just in law, it's in our heads. The idea that the female is simply a burden, added weight on the family, and that her rape needs to be covered up, still exists."
Lawyer and activist Asma Khader told the Associated Press revoking Article 308 wasn't likely to abolish "the patriarchal mentality" found in Jordan society "that never punishes the man or shames him for anything."
Although similar "marry the rapist" provisions have recently been repealed in Egypt and Morocco, they remain in place in Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Algeria, and the Palestinian territories, Human Rights Watch. In Lebanon, lawmakers began taking steps to repeal their own "marry the rapist" provision late last year, though the move is still awaiting parliamentary approval.