- In the last five years, punishments for 156 cases of rape and indecent assault have been dropped on account of the perpetrator’s marrying his victim.
- Children born from rape have no lineage record.
- Lack of coordination between courts helps rape perpetrators to escape punishment.
- Civil societies have failed to apply pressure on this subject.
“He gave me an anesthetic pill to relieve my migraine… When I woke up, I found myself in his house, lying next to him on his bed… I realized then that my life was over.” 20 year-old Nahla sighs, crying, as she tells her story of rape by her 50-something year old employer.
Nahla decided at first to remain silent, but could no longer do so when she found herself pregnant. She returned to the perpetrator asking him to fix what he had done (through marriage), but he refused and denied what happened, paying her multiple times to try aborting the fetus. The abortions failed.
The bereaved woman went to her family to reveal what had happened. They expelled and blamed her for what happened, taking up a rape complaint before the court based on Article 308 in the Jordanian Penal code, which encourages rape perpetrators to marry their victim as a means of avoiding prosecution or punishment – which ranges from imprisonment and hard labor to execution.
Nahla’s marriage with her rapist lasted no more than three months. She describes those months as “living in servanthood and humiliation, without any sense of marriage or respect.” Yet she endured for the sake of registering her child’s lineage.
To escape from this life, Nahla agreed to a divorce with her husband (the rape perpetrator) that would record the child’s lineage but also waive all her legal rights and legitimacyin the case. Once they divorced, the rapist evaded registration of the child’s lineage. In the absence of a Personal Status Law provision forcing him to prove the child’s descent, despite Nahla’s confirmation of his lineage through DNA analysis. Thus the rapist avoided the required punishment – imprisonment with hard labor, for no less than fifteen years –for his crime.
The writer of this investigation followed the stories of five rape victims who were then married to their rape perpetrators. Under Article 308 of the Jordanian Penal Code, this marriage provides for the cessation of prosecution against rape, a crime unusually punishable by imprisonment and hard labor. As soon as the marriage contract is signed, the women are deprived of their human rights and legal claim to material and moral compensation. They are deprived of family life and marital integrity, facing psychological, social and legal difficulties in addition to the almost impossible task of proving genetic lineage of any child born from rape. With an unsympathetic government, apathetic Parliament and weak civil society, little is being done to amend this law that grants impunity to rapists.
Nahla is not the only victim of this rapist marriage phenomenon. According to Jordanian Criminal Court statistics, the punishments in 159 cases of rape and indecent assault over the last five years have been dropped on account of the perpetrator marrying his victim, in line with Article 308. These cases comprise 2.8 % of the total 5654 registered rape and sexual defilement cases,1028 of which are still pending before that courts.
Confirmed rape cases in Jordan number nearly 250 a year, with cases of sexual defilement rising from 572 in 2010 to 637 in 2011 to 826 in 2012, according to figures from the Criminal Court.
According to Criminal Court Judge Fawzi al-Nahar, there are limitations to the implementation of Article 308 – for example, if the victim is already married, if the offender is a relative, if the victim is underage, or if the victim and perpetrator are of different religions. In all these cases, the perpetrator and victim cannot undergo valid marriage, and thus Article 308 is inapplicable to them.
Children of Rape Bereft of Lineage
Nahla spent three years trying and failing to prove the lineage of her now 3 year-old child. She filed lawsuits on her rapist, using DNA scans to prove her child’s lineage at the Shari’a court, but it did not accept her case. Jordan’s personal status law currently does not require the rapist to register his child.
“Today my son is growing up apart from me,” Nahla cries. “When the divorce happened and the father refused to recognize his lineage… the Ministry of Development took him away from me... they oppose me because I am an illegitimate parent, without official recognition.”
She continues with a sigh, “The judge sided with the rapist… he saw him as the victim, and I am the one who is accused.”
Former judge Salim al-Nasri says that the personal status law does not accept DNA scans, which have a one in a million chance of error, as accepted proof of descent. The only legitimate proof is a man’s word that this child is born of his son, or came of a legal marriage – if a manacknowledges a child as son, there is no need to prove its lineage, according to Article 157 of the personal status law.
Lawyer Eva Abu Halwa pointed out a legal loophole in the personal status law that gives the father agency over proof of his child’s descent. In cases of rape and adultery, the child’s descent is not confirmed except by the father’s recognition that he is born of a legitimate marriage. The Court does not invoke DNA, which aims to determine the identity of the criminal in these cases.
Abu Halwa warned that the continued lack of using DNA enables misnaming of children and unnecessary misidentification of their descent, which leads to mixing of lineages.
On the other hand, Islamic thinker Dr. Hamdi Murad believes that the personal status law must be amended in terms of proving lineage. If DNA can be used to scientifically prove a child’s undisputed descent, Murad says, then Islam does not reject this as evidence of fatherhood.
We submitted multiple requests to the justice department for the number of cases on proof of dissent in general and cases related o rape in particular, but received no response.
Marriage: Escape from Death Penalty
"If I see him, I will kill him,” said 12 year-old Eman (name changed) about her feelings toward her 30 year-old rapist.
Eman was forced by difficult circumstances to work in a stationary shop. One day on her way home from work, one of the workers in the shop next door offered her a ride in his car. He took her to an isolated place and raped her.
Eman’s father and the rapist waited until she was 15 years old to let them marry in accordance to the personal status law. Thus he avoided the death penalty supposed to be enforced on anyone who rapes a minor under the age of 15.
Our requests to the Judicial Council and Ministry of Justice for the number of decisions in cases of rape and death penalty were not answered.
As for Eman, she continues to approach age 15 and the date of wedding to her rapist. Their marriage will absolve him of the death penalty, in accordance to Article 308.
Lawyer Saad Karajeh said that Eman’s marriage to the offender is legal cover for a crime. Article 308 does not protect Eman or girls like her, Karajeh said, nor is there any legislation to monitor the husband’s treatment of the woman after the wedding.
Absence of social institutions
Out of the one third of civil society organizations in the 31 Foundation that focus on women’s issues, the writer of this report found that none had gone to the House of Representatives with any requests to amend Article 308. No specialized studies on Article 308 and its implications exist.
The National Committee for Women’s Affairs mentioned Article 308 in its request to the House of Representatives, Senate and government to amend laws for women, but received no reply from any of them.
Women’s rights activist and lawyer Inam al-Ashi said that civil society organizations have failed to follow up on the conditions of rape victims who marry their rapists. There is a lack of inspection on rape cases in general, and a particular absence of attention to how these marriages and consequent family life proceed.
We have asked the Family Protection Department to study these rape cases and analyze their data. After a year of waiting, no detailed database exists, nor has any specialized study been conducted.
Translated by Alice Su. This investigation was carried out by Radio al-Balad with the support of Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ). For the full report, see in Arabic.