My moment of shame in a law lecture

      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.

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      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’.

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      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. 

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42 thoughts on “My moment of shame in a law lecture

  1. This is great Badia! You should read this book by Jordanian writer and journalist Rana Husseini, it’s called Murder in the name of Honour. Not sure if you’ve heard of it before, but it’s definitely worth checking out.

    Keep these coming! 🙂 xxxx

    1. Yes of course I have read that book. Rana Husseini is definitely someone to be proud of in Jordan, she fought and continues to fight for women suffering from unfair situations. Thank you Hind :))

  2. Unfortunately this is the sad reality, I salute you Badia and hope that one day we could be the change we hope for.

  3. did you know that the jordanian parliment voted to keep these laws when there was a strong movement against them . this is even a bigger shame .!

    1. Yes because some people think they are suitable. The only solution is changing them by finding alternatives. They cannot be simply removed leaving a gap as the transition phase will be hard on some of the groups in society. It is indeed shameful that legislators have yet done nothing about it

  4. Thank you for writing such an important piece. It is a BRAVE thing to do. I don’t know you personally, but when you’re back in JO visiting, you should come speak at ACS–really get a dialogue going about this topic. The spirit of the law has not kept up with the spirit of Jordanian realities. Bravo alayki for your analysis and bold words.

  5. You know, I love my country too and I don’t like anyone criticizing it, but you have to realize that it really is shitty

    1. I don’t think calling a country shitty will make it better. If us the people change and improve it will get better. These laws were once appropriate and made sense to whoever made them, they even existed all across Europe. It’s what we do, the youth, about it. Personally, I will work to change my country into the better and always look at its wonderful beautiful sides:)

  6. Very well said Badia. The challenge we still have is the culture we live within, since the majority still think in the same direction. I think there should be intensive campaigns for educating people and increasing the humanitarian awareness within our society. I won’t say this is impossible, but it is a huge challenge we all should face to change the mentality of the majority.
    Best of luck…

    1. I completely agree. The change needed is not only legal, but also social. A recent study concluded that most of the Jordanian youth (males and females) are with honour crimes. This is dangerous and shows the importance of education as you say. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  7. A wonderful read indeed, I wish it gets more spread + translation (because it deserves so, honest!).

    I think any Jordanian can relate. Additionally, I sort of get what context you mean, I`m studying management at Glasgow Uni and the stereotypes do emerge during discussions, beginning with management and encompassing it to all other related issues.

    Regarding the 2nd point in particular; is it true that the “horrible_308” comes from French law? Is it being implemented in other Arab countries? (I did a quick research but no conclusive results! Found that Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Morocco have the same) can you confirm please?

    Also, why and how did such thing progressed? Mere bureaucracy? Isn`t it obvious that for whatever reason(s) it was applicable that it should be -at least- amended?
    😦

    ———–
    We are waiting for you to graduate and aid in correcting this madness 🙂
    ———–

    One line made me delve into sad_thinking: “.. it was amended to also include a woman who kills a man”. To me it reads -in a way- that there is still a loooooot to be done to regain our humanity, male vs female rights (or lack of and/or selective picking) – not just in our part but all around the world.

    Thanks again for this.

    1. I recommend that you read this very useful article talking about the origins and development of the Rape Laws around the Middle East. Really interesting and informative.
      Thank you a lot for your comments 🙂 & good luck in cold Scotland.

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