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Time has come for legislation that does not tolerate rapists or killers of women — Princess Basma

Activists urge legislative, societal and security measures to end crimes against women

By Laila Azzeh - Nov 30,2016 - Last updated at Nov 30,2016

HRH Princess Basma attends a meeting at Al al Bayt University in Mafraq on Wednesday to call for efforts to end gender-based violence (Petra photo)

MAFRAQ — With around 38 women killed in Jordan since the start of the year, activists on Wednesday called for legislative, societal and security measures to end such crimes. 

In continuation of the 16-Day of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, held this year under the theme “Stop the Killing of Women and Girls”, an event was held at Al al Bayt University in Mafraq to generate momentum in support of its goals.

“Twenty-five years on from the start of the 16-day international campaign to combat violence against women, there are still women who are unable to escape the cycle of violence, with all the injury and suffering that entails,” HRH Princess Basma said. 

Addressing the ceremony, she added that a quarter of a century has also passed and there are “still those who justify violence and advise women to accept the status quo — these might be parents, neighbours or even staff in institutions that battered women turn to”. 

“Twenty-five years on, measures to protect battered women are still inadequate,” said the princess, adding that various stakeholders are still struggling to implement initiatives to put an end to crimes of violence against women. 

She highlighted that efforts to counter violence “still fall short”, while the “timid steps” being taken to aid women bring more violence, killing and oppression. 

“Twenty-five years on, families still waive victims’ personal rights, while perpetrators are still afforded mitigating excuses that encourage rather than deter assault and murder,” Princess Basma said, noting that rapists can still escape punishment by marrying their victims, who may still be minors. 

“The time has come for women to lead decent lives not fraught with feeling terrified and deprived of dignity. The time has come to have the will to stop these crimes. The time has come to have legislation that does not tolerate rapists or killers of women,” she stressed. 

Administrative detention of women under the pretext of protecting them, the so-called honour crimes and the “social tolerance” of domestic violence against women were some of the issues discussed by lawmakers, human right activists and religious figures at the Mafraq meeting, held by the Jordanian National Commission for Women.

“What is called honour-crime does not exist in Islam, which requires solid evidence corroborated by four male witnesses confirming the illict sexual act before a woman can be punished for it,” said Hassan Abu Arqoub, from the Iftaa Department. 

Quoting the department’s fatwa (religious edict) against so-called honour crimes, he noted that since the degree of evidence in this case cannot be attained, no such case has ever been proven in the history of Islam. 

“No court can lawfully condemn a woman or a man for such a sin,” Abu Arqoub said, stressing that those who commit “honour crimes” should be punished as in every other crime. 

Hala Ahed, legal consultant at the Jordanian Women’s Union, cited the injustices women face in administrative detention under the pretext of protecting them against murder. 

“Rather than detaining those who threaten women or plan to murder them, women are the ones who pay the price. As illogical as this is, it is justified by the law,” she said, citing the Crime Prevention Law, which authorises administrative governors to detain women “for their protection”. 

During a panel discussion, MP Wafaa Bani Mustafa said the law “encroaches on the executive authorities”. 

“This law is unconstitutional,” she said.

Participants at the event criticised the lack of crucial laws related to women on the agenda of the Lower House’s deliberations.

Israa Tawalbeh, a forensic doctor, estimates the number of crimes committed against women in Jordan to be higher than the official figure, saying that many cases of women’s deaths that are considered accidents turn out to be murder.

“I would like to note here that 90 to 95 per cent of women murdered in the name of honour in Jordan are virgins and not found to be sexually active,” she said. 

A documentary showing all types of violence Jordanian women face was screened during the event.

Princess Basma and the attendees also signed a petition to call for an end stop of violence against women and girls. 

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute and sponsored by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. 

 

Participants chose the dates November 25 — the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women — and December 10 — International Human Rights Day — to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasise that such violence is a violation of human rights.

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