Article 308: Jordan to scrap marriage loophole for rapists

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There was a protest against a similar law in Lebanon at the weekend, involving hanging wedding dresses on Beirut's seafront

A law which protected Jordan's rapists from punishment if they married their victims looks set to be scrapped.

The Jordanian cabinet revoked Article 308 on Sunday, after years of campaigning by women's activists, as well as Muslim and Christian scholars and others.

The law had meant rapists could avoid a jail term in return for marrying their victim for at least three years.

Its supporters said the law protected a victim's honour and reputation.

'A dream come true'

But last year, it was amended so a rapist could only use the loophole to marry his victim if she was aged between 15 and 18 and the attack - which it would be classed as due to the girl's age - was believed to have been consensual.

Then in February, a royal committee suggested the law should be scrapped in its entirety - which the cabinet has now done.

At the time, the move was welcomed by activist Lailla Naffa as a "dream that has come true," according to the Jordan Times.

However, the cabinet's decision must now be voted through by MPs, and could still be blocked.

'My only hope from marrying him was to make my baby safe'

Noor - not her real name - was just 20 when she was raped by a 55-year-old man.

He was her boss when one day, she complained of a headache. After taking the two pills he offered her, she lost consciousness.

"I couldn't remember what happened next; I wake up and find myself naked and raped," she told women's rights campaign group Equality Now.

"I couldn't tell my family what had happened. I cried and cried not knowing what to do. At that moment, I realised that my family will be devastated."

It was only after Noor discovered she was pregnant, that she found the courage to report the rape - but then her attacker offered to marry her under Article 308.

Noor was given no choice in the matter.

"With all the hatred I have in my heart, my family forced me to marry him so as to save the 'family's honour'," she said.

"My only hope from marrying him was to make my baby safe; I was keen to register him in his father's name, but I failed. He started to negotiate by offering to recognise the baby while divorcing me. I accepted that because I could not bear living with my rapist.

"We went to court and I asked for a divorce giving up my legal rights. Still to date, I could not register my baby in his father's name."

As Jordan's cabinet took steps towards abolishing Article 308, Lebanese activists were hanging wedding dresses along Beirut's famous sea front, in protest against Lebanon's version of the law.

They are hopeful it will be scrapped in May, and activists hope the repeal in both countries could lead to change in countries like Iraq, the Philippines and Tunisia, where similar laws exist, according to Equality Now.

A spokesman for the human rights group, which fights for women and children across the world, told the BBC: "With rape and sexual abuse impacting nearly a billion women and girls over their lifetimes, a repeal in Jordan and Lebanon would be crucial examples showing how change is possible in the Arab region, and around the world, for countries with similar exemptions.

"Morocco, Egypt and Ethiopia have closed similar loopholes, and amendments are pending in Bahrain."

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