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Drafting a New Story: Women's Rights in the Middle East

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By Rana Husseini

15 July 2010

AMMAN – Women’s groups on Wednesday welcomed a recent measure by the Ministry of Justice to amend penal laws that would improve the safety and well-being of women and children in Jordan.

During a meeting with ministry officials at the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) yesterday, they commended the amendments, saying it would reduce cases of domestic violence.

In May this year, the Justice Ministry introduced four temporary laws passed by the Cabinet to improve the criminal justice system, particularly regarding crimes committed against women and children.

The four pieces of legislation include the amended Penal Code, the amended Grand Felonies Court Law (known as the Criminal Court), the Attorney General Department Law and the Treasury Cases Law.

Minister of Justice Ayman Odeh told women activists that the amendments were important and timely because of the increase in crime figures, noting that this entailed “introducing tougher measures to reduce the number of murders”.

“The amendments respond to changes in society and modern standards of justice especially since the Penal Code was first drafted in 1951 as a temporary law and became a permanent law in 1960,” Odeh told the gathering.

One of the most important changes, the minister said, was prohibiting courts from applying the “fit of fury” clause stipulated in Article 98 if the murder victim is a minor or a female regardless of age.

Many perpetrators of so-called honor killings used to benefit from reduced penalties under Article 98 after claiming that they murdered their female relatives to cleanse their family’s honor.

In July 2009, however, a specialized tribunal was designated to try cases where perpetrators claim family honor as a motive and started issuing prison terms ranging between seven and 15 years, after establishing that the majority of the murders were committed without any proof that the defendant caught the victim committing adultery.

“The Criminal Court will only apply Article 340 in cases in which persons are caught committing adultery,” the minister said, noting that in 40 years, Article 340 was applied in only one case.

This, the minister added, will impose restrictions on the use of the “fit of fury clause that is stipulated in Article 98”.

Also, the prison term for manslaughter was raised from 15 to 20 years, Odeh told the gathering, while life imprisonment was increased by 10 years to 30 years.

The minister referred to another law related to the minimum punishment for physical assault resulting in death, which has been increased to seven instead of five years. If the crime is committed against a minor or a female, regardless of her age, the minimum prison term is 12 years.

Praising the amendments, JNCW Secretary General Asma Khader noted that the ministry adopted many of the commission’s recommendations.
“We are hopeful that the increase in punishments for crimes committed against women and children will be a deterring factor and help reduce these offences and murders,” Khader said.

She added that the women’s movement is hopeful that the Parliament will endorse these laws after the November elections.
Odeh said a Royal Decree was issued in July approving these laws, which will govern any crime or murder committed after July 1.

http://www.jordantimes.com/?news=28349&searchFor=women

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