Women activists on Monday said the reason behind the drop in the number of reported rape cases last year in comparison with the year before was the implementation of stricter punishments and the cancellation of laws that used to give leniency in punishment to sexual assault perpetrators.
The activists were reflecting on figures that were released today by the Sisterhood is Global Institute (SIGI) that indicated a slight drop in the reported cases.
According to a SIGI statement which quoted Department of Statistics figures, the number of reported rape cases in 2018 was 140, in comparison to 2017, when 145 rape cases were reported.
The statement said the reported figures for 2018 represent cases that were filed at police station, some of which saw suspects tried and convicted, while others were acquitted. Meanwhile, a number of the cases filed were given a different classification than rape.
“I believe that cancelling Article 308 of the Jordanian Penal Code played a factor in the drop in reported cases,” said SIGI Executive Director Asma Khader.
In August 2017, Parliament voted to abolish the controversial Article 308 of the Jordanian Penal Code, which allowed sexual assault perpetrators to escape punishment if they married their victims.
A Royal committee had suggested abolishing the article in February and the government endorsed the decision shortly afterwards.
The women’s movement has for years demanded the abolishment of the provision, arguing that allowing perpetrators of sexual assault to marry their victims in order to escape punishment was a grave violation of women’s rights.
Activists stressed during the campaign that the victims were punished twice because they were sexually assaulted and “they have to spend some part of their lives with their rapist”.
Khader told The Jordan Times that there was an increase in reported cases by victims as a result of the “firmer enforcement of the law by the judiciary branch”.
The president of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, Salma Nims, agreed with Khader. She said that “before Article 308 was abolished, certain individuals who wanted to marry against their families’ wishes used to resort to filing a rape case to get married”.
“We had some cases of that sort and people realise now that they can no longer use Article 308 so the reported cases dropped slightly, although these cases are not final and we still await court rulings to determine the exact figures,” Nims told The Jordan Times.
In addition, the activist said the women’s movement’s activities towards the cancellation of Article 308 also helped raise awareness about the issue in general and “the public became aware that perpetrators of sexual assault will no longer get away with their crimes because they can no longer marry their victims”.
The SIGI statement also said that cancelling Article 308 allowed governmental and non-governmental organisations to focus more on providing the needed services for victims of sexual assaults.
“What is more important to focus on now is providing the necessary services that would help these women reintegrate in their own society so that they could overcome the stigma they went through when they were sexually violated,” the SIGI statement added.