Middle East

Jordan MPs vote to scrap rape law loophole

Women at a demonstration in Amman (file photo) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Jordan is one of a declining number of Middle Eastern countries with such laws

Jordanian MPs have voted to scrap a law enabling rapists to avoid punishment if they marry their victim.

The lower house backed the removal of a controversial clause known as Article 308.

Rights activists have long campaigned to abolish the provision, whose proponents argued protected victims from the social stigma of rape.

The decision must still be approved by Jordan's upper house and ratified by the king before it takes effect.

Jordan is one of a declining handful of countries in the region with such loopholes in its penal code.

Last week Tunisia revoked a similar provision for rapists there, while Lebanon is also considering following suit.

'A victory'

In Jordan, a pro-Western but socially conservative kingdom, campaigners welcomed the move.

"This is a victory for the women's movement and human rights movement in Jordan," Salma Nims, of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, told the Associated Press news agency.

Article 308 had allowed for perpetrators to have rape charges dropped if they married their victim and did not get divorced for at least three years.

Some MPs had wanted to keep it restricted to cases where a suspect was accused of consensual sex with a person between 15 and 17 years of age.

A royal committee and the Jordanian cabinet had already called for the provision to be dropped.

Other countries in the Middle East and North Africa which still have such laws are Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Syria, as well as the Palestinian territories, according to Human Rights Watch.

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