20.11.07

Abolishing honour killing?

In a surprising move, ministers of justice and tourism (the one i think is foxy), announced today that a presidential decree is in the process of drafting which will nullify articles 90 and 340 of the Jordanian Penal Code (we still don't have a Palestinian penal code, we still use the Jordanian penal code as is before 1967) which contain leniency clauses for perpetrators of honour crimes.
Finally, a courageous step from this government. Something that probably would not have been possible under Hamas.
The trick, however, is not in nullifying these articles, but actually implementing the law. More importantly, tackling the cultural roots of this despicable practice. This is a more difficult task, but one that can achieve better results on the long run.
However, the legal framework still needs more courageous steps. Canceling polygamy is a start, recognising only civil marriage, instead of religious one. There is a lot that can and should be done.

5 comments:

ERS said...

Ned, thank you for posting this. . .I hadn't heard. Please keep us informed about what actually happens.

I'm hoping you mean Articles 98 and 340, for usually it is Article 98 that is used to give perpetrators in "honor" killings cases soft sentences.

As for cultural roots, I fully agree with you that there are some. But not long ago, I conducted a nationwide public opinion survey in Jordan about "honor" killings. And to the pleasant surprise of many, including me, 89% of the people in my representative sample already support strengthening the penalties for "honor" killings. Another 3.5% are ambivalent, while the remaining 7.5% like things just as they are. Those 7.5% tended to be older, retired, and less educated than the others, so they will probably die off before too long.

I don't know whether the comparable West Bank figures would be similar, but it's possible more people are already behind this reform than the conventional wisdom would dictate.

I find this all a very hopeful development. Of course, the details are in the execution. In Iraq and Turkey, for example, when the "honor" killings laws have been reformed, there has been a rise in what is being termed "honor" suicides.

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

Ned said...

"Honour Suicides", that's scary! That's also why you have to work on the cultural roots of the phenomenon.

uwe said...

um, how come it would not have been possible if hamas was in charge ?

Ned said...

UWE,
I might be hard on Hamas. but my modest analysis is that Hamas is not only a religious organisation but also one that keeps in line with even the most reactionary cultural practices. Simply I can't see Hamas having the courage to make dramatic changes to the legal framework in Palestine, except in as far as these changes contribute to a more Islamised society. Keeping the lenient terms on honour killings do further their goal of restricting sexual practices. Besides, my view of a modern legal framework is composed of several other actions that further secularism. Something Hamas would not do.

ERS said...

Ned, sorry, but I think my findings show that, at least in Jordan, it would be far more effective to just overturn the laws, but ensure they are airtight and everyone in the enforcement/judicial chain is aware that "honor" suicides are likely to be one unintended result. And then prosecute the people behind those.

It just makes no economic sense to spend a lot of money converting the already converted. Most people are already on board with reform. The small minority who believe the status quo is just fine will soon die off. And, anyway, they aren't of the demographic usually does the killing (i.e., they are old).

ERS