One of the headlines in the July 10th issue of the Jordanian English-language daily newspaper is "No legal exemptions for 'honour crimes'." Of course, news like that is going to get my attention.
There have been whispers that the Jordanian Parliament is reviewing the laws impacting the penalties for these crimes. Parliament has done so on a number of occasions over the past decade but, to date, there has been no meaningful change in the laws. I thought, perhaps, Inshallah, the headline meant material change.
No such luck. The Minister of Justice simply declared that "all people are equal under the law" (no, they aren't) and that, in Jordan, "perpetrators [of dishonor killings] get no legal exemption" (bull$hit!).
Just hours after these pronouncements were made, two more dishonor killings were reported in the country. A 24-year-old man stabbed his 27-year-old sister 10 times. She was with child, so the fetus was a casualty, too. Details of the second murder have not yet been released.* So I guess the words of the Minister of Justice aren't motivating anyone to be more circumspect, probably because the laws that offer leniency are still on the books. Saying something doesn't make it so.
I'm not banging on the Minister because, for all I know, he really does wish these crimes would receive the same sentences as other murders. Many people in Jordan do, and he is probably under pressure from the regime and from the country's donors to crack down. That appears to be the case in neighboring Syria, too. But talk means nothing if it isn't supported by applicable law.
Women are still subjected to dishonor killings, and family members can drop charges against defendants, resulting in reduced penalties. It happened last week, when a court cut in half the penalty for a 29-year-old man who put 12 bullets through his raped sister. Yes, you read that right. He killed her because she'd been raped.
The emperor is naked.
I fear the international media will pick up on these headlines and, as the BBC did last week, inadvertently perpetuate this propaganda. I also fear that this article is an indication that, once again, the Jordanian Parliament has let down all people with scruples by failing to scrap the relevant penal code articles.
* July 11, 2009 Update: A 20-year-old man stabbed his sister with a kitchen knife 20 times, then smashed her head with a rock, leaving behind one motherless child.
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