Jordan: No legal exemption for 'honour crimes'

Jordan Times
Legal experts and religious leaders insist that there should be no exemption for so-called honour crimes under the law.
"A crime is a crime. There is no such thing as honour crimes. All people are equal before the law," Justice Minister Ayman Odeh said on Thursday. When they occur, honour killings are usually committed by one family member against another, supposedly in the name of defending the honour of the family, but in the eyes of the law, these crimes are perceived as crimes against humanity and dealt with accordingly, the minister said in an interview with The Jordan Times.
Odeh said that Jordan, like many other countries, witnesses so-called “honour killings”, but stressed that the perpetrators get no legal exemption.

Just hours after the minister gave the interview Thursday, two such murders were reported in the Amman and Karak governorates.

Currently, some defendants who murder their female relatives in the name of family honour could get a minimum of six months in prison if the court decides to invoke Article 98 of the Penal Code, which stipulates a minimum of three months and a maximum of two years in prison for a murder that is committed in a fit of fury caused by an unlawful act on the part of the victim.

But it seems courts no longer accept the defence of “family honour” as a reason to reduce a sentence, as indicated by their records.

This year alone, the court rejected the defendants’ claims in three separate cases that they should benefit from a reduction in penalty as stipulated in Article 98 of the Penal Code.

Last week, a court halved the jail term of a 29-year-old man who shot his raped sister 12 times "in the name of honour," but its decision was not based on the man's claim, according to the verdict, a copy of which was faxed to The Jordan Times.

According to the court document, the judges decided to reduce the sentence of 15 years hard labour by half only because the father dropped charges against the defendant.


Such killings result from the perception that defending the family’s honour justifies killing a person whose behaviour “dishonours” their reputation.

Although it is mistakenly believed that honour killings are widespread in Muslim majority countries, Muslim community leaders insist that these crimes have nothing to do with religion.

"Islam absolutely rejects the killing of others by individuals. There is nothing called ‘honour crimes' in Islam," Abdul Rahman Ibdah, a well-known Muslim cleric, told The Jordan Times yesterday.

He believes most crimes committed in the name of honour turn out to be based on illusions or false suspicions.

According to Momen Hadidi, head of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine, most female victims of honour crimes are found to be virgins during the autopsy. He noted that the "killers based their judgements of the victims on mere suspicions that they had improper relationships".

Government measures

In fact, according to Minister of Social Development Hala Latouf, the defence of family honour is often given as an excuse to mask motives involving inheritance, extortion and other disputes among relatives.

The government is taking measures to address this phenomenon by raising the public's awareness of the negative social effects of honour killings, Latouf told The Jordan Times on Thursday.

"The government has taken several legislative and precautionary measures to address this negative act within society and its impact on households," Latouf said, adding that in mid-2008, the ministry, in cooperation with the Interior Ministry, the Public Security Department and administrative governors, launched a pioneer project to protect females who leave their homes for various reasons.

"In the past, when these women were found by the police, they used to be held in correctional and rehabilitation centres for protection, which made things more complicated. Currently they are kept in specially designated premises where they can be psychologically and socially rehabilitated," the minister said.

She added that since the project started, more than 350 women have been provided protection and sent back to their homes after the ministry succeeded in bridging the differences among the family members in cooperation with tribal and religious leaders.

According to Latouf, none of these women were subjected to violence upon reuniting with their families.

"The government takes honour crimes seriously, as they contradict all religious, human and cultural values," she said, adding that the government's efforts to address the issue have also included substantive amendments to national laws, particularly the Penal Code, abolishing exemption from punishment for honour killings and imposing harsher penalties for the perpetrators of such crimes.

10 July 2009

The Jordan Times