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Jordan: Ministerial Committee Decides to Repeal Controversial Rape Provision

(May 6, 2016) On April 17, 2016, a Ministerial Committee established by the Jordanian Cabinet issued a decision to repeal article 308 of the Penal Code. Article 308 had provided for the pardoning of an individual convicted of the felony of rape if the perpetrator married the victim.  (The Abolishment of Article 308 of the Penal Code Allowing a Rapist to Marry the Victim, SARAYAH NEWS (Apr. 17, 2016) (in Arabic).)

After examining article 308, the Ministerial Committee, which consists of 13 legal scholars, announced that it would review all provisions in the Penal Code to ensure that they abide by international human rights standards established by United Nations conventions and declarations. (Dana Al Emam, Legal Experts Call for Scrapping Controversial Rape Provision in Penal Code, JORDAN TIMES (Apr. 26, 2016).)

The decision of the Committee must go through the legal department of the Cabinet and then obtain parliamentary approval. There is no specific date determined for the Parliament to discuss the decision of the Committee.  If Members of Parliament, after debating the decision, decide to approve it, the Parliament will pass a law amending the Penal Code.  (Penal Code, Law No. 16 of 1960, 1487 AL JARIDAH AL-RASSMAYAH (Jan 1, 1960), available at World Intellectual Property Organization website; Rana Husseini, MP to Push for Scrapping Controversial Rape Article from Draft Penal Code, JORDAN TIMES (Apr. 25, 2016).)

The Committee has suggested another, related amendment to the Penal Code. This would allow for a pardon for rapists in cases where proof is later presented to the court that the sexual intercourse between the male and female was consensual.  Thus, if a woman has accused someone of rape but the accused is later able to prove that the sexual intercourse was not against the plaintiff’s will, the accused party would be pardoned and there would be no conviction.  This proposal, too, is to be debated by the Parliament.  (Rana Husseini, Projected Penal Code Amendment Scraps Article Pardoning Rapists Who Marry Victims, JORDAN TIMES (Apr. 6, 2015).)

Human rights activists and legal scholars have supported the Committee’s decision to repeal article 308. They have called repeatedly for this article to be repealed or modified, arguing that its repeal will result in  deterring the commission of rape because rapists would not be able to use the provision as a means of escaping punishment.  (Id.)