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Jordan scraps law that allowed impunity for rapists

Women activists protest in front Jordan's parliament in Amman on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 with banners calling on legislators to repeal a provision that allows a rapist to escape punishment if he marries his victim.
(AP Photo/Reem Saad)
Human Rights Watch said earlier on Tuesday that removing the article completely would be a positive step

Jordan's parliament on Tuesday scrapped a controversial article in the penal code that allowed a rapist to escape punishment if he married his victim.

Activists had campaigned for years to abolish Article 308, which allowed rape charges to be dropped if the rapist married his victim and did not divorce her for five years.

The article was scrapped as parliament passed amendments to the penal law, the official Petra news agency reported.

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hani Mulqi threw his weight behind the move.

"The government is committed to eliminating Article 308 to reinforce the protection of the Jordanian family," he said.

Human rights activists applauded parliament's action.

"The removal of this article is a victory for all victims of rape," said Eva Abu Halaweh, a lawyer and the head of law group Mizan.

It comes "after years of huge effort from civil society organisations", she said.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, also welcomed the vote.

"BRAVO #JORDAN for repealing heinous article 308 absolving rapists who marry their victims. Urge #Arab states to follow. Women NOT property," she tweeted.

Whitson earlier urged lawmakers to repeal the article, saying it had been "a blight on Jordan's human rights record for decades". 

"The mere existence of article 308 puts pressure on women and girls to marry those who assault them, including teenage victims of rape," she said.

Jordan registered more than 160 rape cases last year, according to official figures.

Last week, Tunisia also scrapped an article allowing rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victim when it passed a new law to end violence against women.

According to Human Rights Watch, countries in the region that retain similar provisions in their laws include Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Syria, as well as the Palestinian territories.

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