June 24, 2008

The Legal Side of Honor Killings

This post will not talk about the number of women killed in the name of honor, be they innocent or guilty. This post will not talk about how honor is attached only to females and not to males. This post will not talk about how possible victims are jailed "for their protection", only to be bailed out and killed by their families. This post will talk about the legal side of honor killings, mainly because I've noticed that a lot of people do not know what actually happens in such cases. I didn't even know until I did a research on the subject.

Article 340:

This article from the Jordanian penal code states that: "any man who kills or attacks his wife or any of his female relatives in the act of committing adultery or in an “unlawful bed” benefits from a reduction in penalty."

In 2001, this article was amended, under a temporary law, to give women the same reduction of penalty. in 2003, the amended law was rejected by the lower house of the parliament. Praise democracy.

While this article has become almost synonymous with honor crimes, it has rarely been used in the past as it requires "actual" discovery of, e7em, female indiscretion. Activists campaigned to repeal the law because it sends the message that the constitution considers honor killings as legal. While I agree, I think more effort should've been put into actually changing the status quo.


Article 98:

Article 98 states that: "A person who commits a crime in a state of fury (fit of fury) benefits from a reduction of penalty."

It is article 98 that is mostly used in honor killings. It does not require actual discovery or any evidence of female indiscretion for that matter. In fact, any man who kills a female relative, regardless of the circumstances, can claim she tarnished his "honor" and consequently benefit from the reduction of penalty.

Under article 98, the killer can receive a minimum of six months up to a maximum of two years that can be further reduced into half if the family does not wish to file a complaint (which is nearly always the case).

How honorable, huh?

I honestly thought that after the honor massacres that happened in May (3 outrageous killings, 2 of them less than a week apart), that someone, ANYONE, was going to do something. A campaign maybe, or I don't know, perhaps a member of our female quota would wake up and suggest doing something about it. But nah, I'm guessing comparing officials to Mossad spies for popularity is a better use of time, and let's face it, it's more entertaining.

Note: I recommend watching this.

9 comments:

Tololy said...

I agree with you that there needs to be more awareness among women themselves if honor killings are to stop. Women in power, such as the queen, ministers, and members of the senate and house of representatives are expected to do something about this. They don't, because they are not bothered with anything beyond their immediate job descriptions. That's part of the criteria that qualifies many of them to hold their positions.

The Observer said...

I guess that women had a good chance to stand for themselves when we had the parliament elections. Unfortunatly most did vote for the tribal candidate without giving a damn about their rights as women.

Farah said...

Tololy, I think the reason they don't is because they're afraid to lose popularity. With subjects like these the government (and the royal family) doesn't wish to start up a controversy, but I think they have a greater number of people on their side now than when they participated in the campaign in 2000. It's bad for their reputation mind you, Jordan has become more notorious for honor killings than anything else.

Observer, of course they did. Women's worst enemy is women, sadly.

Hareega said...

Nothing wrong with article 98. It's present in almost all Western countries. Notice that it mentions "persons" in a state of extreme anger and not necessarily men and doesn't in any way refer to men killing women for sexual acts. It's probably the interpretation of the law that's a problem because we realize that a most men who commit honor crimes do not commit them when they're in an extreme state of anger (like catching their wife in bed with someone) but acting based on suspicion and after having a plan to kill her.

Farah said...

Hareega, and that's what needs to be changed. Not allowing judges to use this article in cases of honor crimes, or at least not in cases that were clearly premeditated and based on nothing but rumors and hearsay.

Hamzah N. said...

Farah, the government web site where the laws are available is currently inaccessible for some reason, but I want to point out that there is what is called a مبدأ جزائي regarding article 98 which states:

- تشترط المادة 98 عقوبات لاعتبار الفاعل مستفيدا من العذر المخفف المنصوص عليه فيها أن يكون قد أقدم على فعله تحت
تأثير سورة غضب شديد ناتج عن عمل غير محق وعلى جانب من الخطورة أتاه المجني عليه .

So it's not for any reason that a person can get a reduced sentence.

Farah said...

hamzah, it's not article 98 that I have a problem with, it's how article 98 is applied by judges in cases that were obviously thought out and premeditated and like I said that's what needs to be changed. You're right, it's not specifically for honor crimes, but I would think it's mostly used in honor crimes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for blogging about this, Farah.

I've done quite a bit of work on this, and when I visited the Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament a couple years ago, he told me Article 340 has never, to his knowledge, been employed in a dishonor killings case. Article 98 is the one that is used. He also said one of the problems with Article 98 is the lack of a minimum sentence (allowing judges too much latitude, as you note), and he suggested five years for starters.

It's true that other countries have on their books something similar to Article 98, laws that deal with crimes of passion. But, even when those laws are successfully employed in a defense, you don't see people getting off with a six-month sentence, as you do with dishonor killings in Jordan. More typical is that, instead of getting a life sentence, the perpetrator will get 20 years or 30 years or something along those lines. And the crimes of passion laws usually codify the specific circumstances under which they can be used as a defense, which isn't the case with Article 98 (as you note).

Also, there is already a lot of support within Jordan for tougher penalties for these crimes. I conducted a nationwide attitude and opinion survey on this very topic in Jordan a couple years ago. Among other findings, the survey (using a representative sample of the entire population of Jordan) revealed that 89% of the respondents support tougher penalties (I've since seen this figure corroborated in a later study). Another 3.5% don't care one way or another; the remainder like the status quo. Even the remainder, though, told me there needs to be a higher burden of proof that an actual impropriety occurred and that "impropriety" should be legally defined so everyone is clear about what constitutes a breach.

Such overwhelming support for reform should remove any excuses relating to popularity for maintaining the status quo. Clearly, something else is at work.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

Farah said...

Ms. Sheeley, I'm very glad my post grabbed your attention. You have done amazing work in shedding light on the subject and I applaud your courage for that. We're still a long way ahead, but I remain hopeful.