If you know me, you’ll know that I am such a biased person when it comes to one thing: Jordan. Whenever I hear someone talking badly and destructively about my country, I instantly boil up from the inside. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for constructive criticism, but when it is full with negativity and pessimism, I tend to disagree.
Studying in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland situated in the United Kingdom, I have never really felt ashamed to say that I come from a small developing country. I always get stereotypical comments about it but that I guess this is the downside of the Internet and there is nothing wrong with correcting facts, I enjoy it.
This week however, was the first time that I felt secretly ashamed of my country that I couldn’t comment or participate in the discussion being so consumed with my embarrassment.
Two topics were at hand in my Evidence & criminal law course: Murder due to provocation and rape.
1) Murder due to provocation is, for example, when a man witnesses his wife practicing sexual infidelity, and so goes ahead and kills her. The accused can then apply for a reduction to his sentence (from murder to culpable homicide) offering him less time in jail. It is up to the judge’s discretion to choose a sentence (often goes from 2 to 12 years in jail). Someone in the lecture asked the professor: ‘Where did this law come from?’ He answered: it is principle derived from our old ancestors who believed women are their properties, and if anything bothered their honour then they can just kill it. The whole class (almost all British and European nationalities) laughed at the answer. Who can blame them for laughing? Is it really easy to believe that in this newly developed technological world where women go to the moon and hold positions of authority, exists a law, which defends men who kill their wives/sisters/cousins? I felt so ashamed, because my internal mind answered with a yes. Yes, in Jordan, under Article 340, a man gets a reduction of sentence for killing an allegedly adulterous woman (it was amended to also include a woman who kills a man, but is that really the reality?) In addition to that, Article 98 (which has the same UK provocation principle) provides a reduction of a sentence if the killing happened under a ‘state of fury’. Thus, “honor” killers may receive sentences of six months, they usually do. If a killer has served that much time waiting for trial, the sentence may be commuted to time served and he then walks away a free man. The United Kingdom have worked and is still working on restricting the provocation sentence so that no one can get away with killing anyone under a state of fury, while us, we just amended it to include women perpetrators. It is a disgrace to say that my country allows, or actually, encourages someone to kill a relative or a wife only because he allegedly thinks she is being adulterous.
2)Rape: my lecturer started the topic by saying that rape is one the most horrific events anybody can experience. According to the British Crime Survey, it is the crime that women fear more than any other. She added that because of constant confusion in courts as to what amounts to ‘consent’ to rape, a new Act in 2009 was established which specifically stated what rape is, what is consent, and what is NOT consent. This is beneficial because in the past, a girl which entered a place wearing slightly revealing outfit and was raped, it would be hard to convict the rapist as his defence would be that her outfit was a consent for him to have sex with her. After 2009, rape convictions increased and its sentence is almost always lifetime imprisonment. Another unfortunate fact about my beloved country: Article 308 of the penal law allows rape charges to be dropped if the perpetrator agrees to marry the victim. Imagine how horrific? Not only does the victim have to live with the constant nightmare of the rape but also she is literally forced to live with THE RAPIST. In an attempt to defend the law it has been applied to also include women who rape men. But then again, how much does that really happen in reality?
If you’d think that her parents would nurture their little girl and protect her, then you are wrong. It is preferred that they protect their honour and allow her marriage to the rapist so as to conceal the fact that she had pre-martial sex and is no longer a virgin. Yes, they put sex as equivalent to rape.
In April of 2010, a girl was shopping in the northern city of Zarqa (in Jordan) when a 19-year-old man kidnapped her, took her to the desert where he had a pitched a tent and raped her for three consecutive days, judicial sources said.Police found the girl during a routine patrol, drove her back to her family home and arrested the man. Within days news emerged that the boy had agreed to marry the girl, while all charges against him have been dropped. Not only is he rewarded with freedom; he also gets to rape her again and again, but this time ‘legally’.
It is pretty frustrating how these laws amongst many others, even though masked to also apply to male victims, serve women harshness and makes Jordan a country, which frees rapists. I suggest that we demand the Parliament (which is supposed to work for the good of the people) to change the current laws. To change them into laws which acknowledge rape as a crime and laws which punish correctly.
It is really urgent that these issues are resolved. The legislative arena continues to fail in finding a solution and our silence to these unfair & unreasonable laws is a failure, too. We, as Jordanians, should feel ashamed of ourselves.
I am proud of my country because of its stability, its hospitality, its survival in midst of a volcano, but I also want to be proud of its ability to serve justice, equally and fairly.