The Jordanian parliament [official website] on Tuesday narrowly voted to repeal Article 308 [text, in Arabic] of the penal code, which permitted rapists to escape punishment if they married their victims. Rights groups applauded the decision, calling it a step forward in ending violence against women [Reuters report], especially in Middle Eastern countries where girls and women were offered as gifts to their rapists to avoid family shame. Though the Jordanian Cabinet voted to revoke [JURIST report] the law in April, Parliament’s upper body and King Abdullah II must also approve [AP report] this action before the repeal can take effect.
Jordan is not the only Middle Eastern country to enforce “marry your rapist” laws. Criminal Codes of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Kuwait, Bahrain, Algeria, Tunisia and the Palestinian Territories provide [JURIST op-ed] that if the offender of rape lawfully marries the victim, any action becomes void and any investigation or other procedure is discontinued and, if a sentence has already been passed in respect of such action, then the sentence will be repealed. Activists and rights groups, such as Equality Now [advocacy website], hope Tuesday’s decision encourages Lebanon to revoke its similar law.