Jordan Drops Legal Exemptions For Honour Crimes, But Not Really

There’s an article that’s been floating around the local twittersphere as well as Facebook and quite possibly blogs in a bit. It’s a news article from Ammon’s English-language site that has a slightly misleading, sensationalist headline that reads “The Kingdom drops legal exemptions for honour crimes”.

AMMAN – Reduced sentences in cases where a person claims the murder of a woman was committed in an effort to restore honour will no longer be allowed by Jordan’s courts, a state official said Saturday. “A crime is a crime. There will be no such things as honour crimes or exemptions for those who commit such crimes, because all people are equal before the law,” said Nabil Sharif, minister of state for media affairs and communication.

It kind of reads as if honor crimes have been abolished in Jordan, which has naturally caught the attention of many and I’m sure the link will be passed on.

But I wanted to point out that this isn’t what people think it is. There have been no legislative changes or exemptions made of any kind.

The article is based on government statements made by both Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communication, Nabil Sharif and Minister of Justice Ayman Odeh. Both were pushing the notion that the government has done a lot by way of “protecting” women, indicating that 350 were “saved” through the government’s program, which usually consists of putting these women in a “safe house” until differences with their families can be resolved. It should be noted that a lot of these women are actually killed after being released from government “protection” based on the “guarantees” of the families not to do them any harm, but I suppose it’s better than nothing.

What seems to be happening now is that there is an obvious move by the government to re-approach the issue of honor crimes on various fronts, notably the judicial and legislative branches. These kinds of statements from the executive branch are made available to the press in order to pave the way for something – likely a bill in parliament in the coming weeks or a revision of the penal code.

This is nothing new.

The executive branch’s position on the issue is fairly known, as is the parliament’s position. In order to decrease or abolish these crimes, laws need to be changed as does the judicial system. In order for laws to be changed they need to be passed by parliament (or by temporary law but that’s unlikely with a social issue as taboo as honor crimes). In order for changes in the judicial system to occur, reform from within the system needs to take place – judges need to be trained, guidelines set.

Honor crimes are still alive and well as seen very recently.

And demanded changes to the enabling system are also far from a tangible reality at the moment.

I do have faith that this is a national issue that will eventually be resolved but I also have to acknowledge that it is a very complex issue that does not have a binary state. Resolving its complexities is a process and I can only hope that these statements are indicative of positive changes ahead, or at the very least, an attempt.

In the meantime, these news sources have to take it easy with their headlines.

Meanwhile, this is an interesting video on the issue that’s worth watching. [ht: rima.k]


  • In yesterdays Al-ghad front page it was mentioned that they droped the legal exemptions!, Is it a maneuver to divert the public local and international attention about these crimes ?

  • people in this country are crazy… they are psychotic… people who commit honor crimes ought to be sent to centers to be cared for until the day they die…

    people in his country are not normal, doesn’t anyone else see that?

    i was in a cab the other day and he was complaining about a girl wearing hijab and jeans, claiming she will go to hell and stuff… shoo had? he is the one who pollutes our streets by driving around all day with inadequate technology on his car to reduce carbon emmisiions, he is the one who goes around throwing trash in the streets, he is the one who doesn’t shower, he is the one who has a dirty mind for differentiating between sexes to begin with, he is the one who wishes death upon Americans, he is the one who cuts you in line while the traffic is unbearable for US ALL, he is the one who doesn’t read books to keep touch with the world, he is definitely the one who is going to hell

    how and why does the average Jordanian citizen have sooooo much constitutional power? The average jordanian with his poor work ethics needs to be disciplined, absolutely not rewarded for his stupidity and insanity

  • Honour killings make me sick to my stomach. Why do people commit such a terrible crime? It is an unfathomable thing!
    “Honour” crimes should be tried for what they are: murder.

  • Off course I am absolutely and emphatically against this horrible crimes against our sisters and cousin and neighbors , but the question that begs it’s self that always pops in my mind why is it called Honour crimes when is committed in Jordan or the Arab World, and when the same crimes are committed in the west are called domestic violence??

  • hmmm who said they are called that ? free jordanian …. they are called honor crimes here and in the west when they revolve around the idea that i lost my honor because you got your hymen poked … she might have never been abused before that point ( possible) and yet when the rumours start they off her. domestic violence, which we have our fair share of is when a member of the household terrorizes and abuses the other members … no poked hymen, just poked brains.

    Now since you have a warped comprehension of reality i doubt that this will make sense but oh well …

  • You want an example on the state of press in this country? Today the police closed a store chain that sells sweets. and not a single news outlet dared to mention the name of the place!

  • Ok Bam,,,,, let me put this way, how do you describe somebody that kills his wife because he suspected that his wife was having an affair???

  • The “protection” the government provides is placing these women in prison with actual criminals (jwaideh). We were recently speaking to activists in the field who told us that when they finally release these ‘protected’ women, sometimes 10, 15 years later, they have actually adopted criminalist behaviour (like compulsive lying, aggression) after living with real criminals for so long.
    Yet, at the same time, we were speaking to another activist who used to work in a shelter-like institution to protect abused women or those fearing for their lives, and she was saying that they had to advertise the centre (in the local community) as a facility for health awareness and such, because otherwise no woman would dare approach them.
    Like you said it is a complex issue.
    And yes the legal/judicial aspect of the crimes will eventually be addressed and rectified… but that will not solve the problem of actual murder culturally justified because of the label of honour…. all the legal reforms can do is hand the criminal a harsher sentence… but he will still receive a hero-like reception in jail as well as his community…
    so yes, a very complex issue.

  • Bam,, unfortunately,, most women are still colonized specially the westernized one ,and your answer proved it…

  • there is nothing honorable about “honor killing”. perhaps if they modify the law where the killer must proof beyond any reasonable doubt that the woman committed adultery with the definition including sexual intercourse . if he can, then he goes free. if not, then he should be executed. how many idiots would still commit this crime? do you think the backward minded politicians would support it or not?

  • I read a book called Daughters of Shame, and came out of it feeling like a silly kid for thinking these issues had been well and truely dealt with in the past. I felt myself getting frustrated with the women who continued to let these things happen to them with out using their voice, since in my country each man, women and child has a voice.

    Our cultures are very different, but the way i see it is part of the answer belongs with the governments who need to really pull up their socks. Im sure they wouldnt like to have all this bad press about their country, especially since they want to be percived as ‘modern’. Becoming modern doesnt end with mobile phones and internet!

    I also i think the answer also belongs with the women to who these horrible things happen to. If it is forced that all women MUST be educated and if they could learn that they are not alone, they might see that together they can tackle a big issue. One woman can be kept quiet easily, but if you have a whole crowd, a whole contry of women that ban together, there would be no stopping what they could do. Just think if so many women stood up and foudnd their voices and said ‘we have a problem and need help’ that couldnt be ignored by their country and it wouldnt be ignored by the world

  • in todays news papers ( aldostour) they still state that we dont have such a law and that we only have the crminal laws and any crime is treated as a crime not as an honor crime! well the statment was vaugue yet it hinted to the fact that this law was canceled and that the human rights watch had no right to ask the goverment to cancel a law that is already canceled! shame on you Mr big to put your self in this position after you speak in the name of justice! but i guess your juistice is the male justice!
    look up todays news papers for further details

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