Jordan Scraps Law Allowing Rapists To Avoid Jail When They Marry Their Victims

Jordan’s parliament voted Tuesday to terminate a provision in their penal code which let rapists avoid jail time if they married their victims.

Amanda Green / Creative Commons

“We are celebrating today,” Jordanian National Commission for Women’s secretary-general, Salma Nimsa, told Al Jazeera. “This is a historic moment not only for Jordan, but for the entire region. This achievement is a result of the concerted effort of the civil society, women’s rights and human rights organizations in Jordan.”

Nimsa’s feelings were echoed by hundreds of Jordanian citizens who had staged a sit-in outside of the parliament building before the vote was held, erupting into cheers after Jordan’s speaker of the lower house Atef Tarawneh announced the body’s decision.

Article 308 allowed rapists to marry their victims as a way for the victim’s family to “protect” their honor—which would be sullied without the marriage because the victim lost their virginity and was therefore “impure.” Jordan isn’t the first or only nation to have a rape-marriage law on the books, nor is it the first to scrap such a law. Such laws are also not unique to Arab countries.

Egypt in 1999 ended enforcement of a law that allowed rapists to evade prosecution if they married their victims. Italy had a law exempting rapists from legal action if they married their victim until 1981. France had one until 1994. Peru had one until 1998. Romania had one until 2000. Uruguay had one until 2006. Costa Rica held out until 2007.

Meanwhile, in Morocco, sex outside of marriage is still criminalized, and rape-marriage laws are still prevalent in Latin America. Jordan’s abolition of Article 308 is a strong step forward—but until everyone is guaranteed the basic freedom to abstain from marrying their rapist, and the right to marry who and when they choose, there remains a lot of work to do.

Kelsey Cochran is an Editorial Intern at Ms. and a senior at Gettysburg College majoring in Globalization Studies with a focus in Western media portrayal of Arab countries. She aspires to be a photojournalist and has previously been published in her hometown’s independent newspaper The Bay Weekly. When she isn’t tracking down subjects to interview for her next article, you can find her running on the rugby field, taking her friend’s next profile picture or talking about her time spent abroad for the hundredth time. Find her on Tumblr.

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