Rights group urges tough law to fight Jordan 'honour' crimes

The United States-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday urged Jordan to reform its penal code, which it says condones the murder of women as “honour crimes”.

“The current law is nothing less than an endorsement for murdering women and girls,” Nadya Khalife, women’s rights researcher at HRW, said in a letter to the kingdom’s Justice Ministry.

“The women of Jordan need protection from these vicious acts enshrined in law, not preferential treatment for their killers,” she said in the letter, a copy of which was released by HRW.

Last month the Justice Ministry in Jordan announced it would establish a special tribunal to hear such cases.

“But special tribunals are not an adequate solution ... when discriminatory penal code provisions effectively sanction the violence with exemptions and lighter sentences for honour crimes,” HRW said in the letter sent last month.

Under Article 340 of the penal code, a defendant who “surprises his wife or any close female relative” in an act of adultery or fornication may invoke a defence of “crime of honour” should they murder the woman.

And Article 98 stipulates that “an extenuating justification can be invoked by anyone who commits a crime in a fit of rage as a result of an unrightful and dangerous act carried out by the victim”.

The articles can significantly reduce penalties for murder.

Although only few defendants have been able to meet the requirements of the law, most have avoided trial for murder, according to rights activists.

Murder is punishable by the death penalty in Jordan, but in the case of “honour killings” a court usually commutes or reduces sentences, particularly if the victim’s family urges leniency.

Between 15 and 20 women are murdered each year in Jordan in the name of honour, despite government efforts to fight such crimes. Parliament has refused to reform the penal code to ensure harsher penalties.

“Jordan needs to send a strong message to perpetrators that they can no longer get away with murder,” said Khalife.—AFP

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