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Teen forced to marry rapist

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2012 at 09:20

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Amman – The ordeal of a 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped and raped repeatedly for three days has infuriated Jordanians, especially when her attacker agreed to marry her to avoid going to jail.

In conservative Muslim societies like Jordan, rapists can walk free thanks to penal code Article 308, known as the “rape-law.”

In April, the unidentified girl was shopping in the northern city of Zarqa when a 19-year-old man kidnapped her, took her to the desert where he had a pitched a tent and raped her for three consecutive days, judicial sources said.

Police found the girl during a routine patrol, drove her back to her family home and arrested the man.

Within days news emerged that the boy had agreed to marry the girl, while all charges against him have been dropped.

Earlier this month, another girl, aged 15, was talked into following a young man to an empty apartment in Amman where she was also raped.

Judicial sources say the young man is now desperately trying to work out an arrangement with her family to marry her, to avoid going to jail.

Article 308 allows rape charges to be dropped if the perpetrator agrees to marry the victim. He cannot divorce the woman for five years.

“This article of the law not only helps perpetrators walk free, it rewards them by allowing them to marry their victims, who get punished… for God knows what,” Nadia Shamrukh, head of the Jordanian Women’s Union, told AFP.

“By applying this law, another crime is committed. How can this 14-year-old girl, who is a minor anyway, marry her rapist? Can you imagine this?”

The rape of a child under the age of 15 is punishable by death in Jordan, which recorded 379 cases of rape in 2010, according to court documents.

“In one case, we tried so hard to prevent a rapist from marrying an 18-year-old girl, who did not want to end up being his wife,” said Eva Abu Halaweh, a lawyer and human rights activist who heads law group Mizan.

“But the girl’s father struck a deal with the unemployed rapist, who was already married to another woman and had six children. He was unable to provide for his family and his wife was a beggar.”

Abu Halaweh said the law is “inefficient anyway.”

“It should be scrapped. What if a girl gets raped by more than one man? In this case, Article 308 will fail to address the problem,” she said.

“Even if the victim does not resist marrying her rapist, he should not walk free… The penalty could be reduced.”

But Israa Tawalbeh, the country’s first woman coroner, sees “nothing wrong in Article 308 as such.”

“The problem is how some local and international human rights groups interpret the law,” she told AFP.

“Actual rape cases are rare in our society. Sometimes, girls under 18 lose their virginity to force their families to accept marriage to their boyfriends. The law categorises this as rape.”

Tawalbeh said the law “solves problems for some.”

“Accepting marriage under Article 308 is better than leaving girls to be killed by their parents or relatives,” she said.

“I think the law fits our society and reality. It protects the girls by forcing attackers to marry them.”

In Jordan, between 15 and 20 women are murdered annually in the name of “honour” and at least six such killings have been reported so far this year, according to authorities.

Murder is punishable by death, but in “honour killings,” courts sometimes commute or reduce sentences.

But Hani Jahshan, who is a forensic pathologist and physician at the health ministry and the Family Protection Directorate, has a quite different view of Article 308.

“This law is a stark violation of rights of women and children,” he said “Sexual violence has a deep impact on victims that could last for a long time, and if a raped girl marries her rapist, her suffering will only be aggravated.”

Jahshan blamed social misconceptions.

“Society believes that a female’s virginity must be preserved until marriage. This forces girls to marry their rapists in order to protect her reputation and avoid social problems,” he said.

Jordanians, particularly women activists, have held several street protests against the law.

“This issue must be effectively addressed,” Nadia Hashem Alul, Jordan’s first state minister for women’s affairs, told AFP. “I think Article 308 should be amended to ensure justice to rape victims.” – Sapa-AFP

The immorality of Afghanistan’s ‘moral crimes’

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2012 at 07:56

“Please help us.”

Those were the first words that my client, Gulnaz, said when I met her inside the Kabul prison that was home to hundreds of women, many of whom, like her, were locked away for so-called moral crimes — adultery or running away from home. The frail 20-year-old clung to her baby, who was conceived through rape and born on the prison floor, where mother and child had lived for nearly two years.

Tearfully, Gulnaz recounted the story of the assault that took place in 2009. The attacker, nearly twice her age, pinned her down, tied her up and then savagely raped her. She described going to the police with her disabled, widowed mother to report the rape. There she was instantly imprisoned for reporting the crime. With no male head of household present, the two women were not taken seriously.

After years of advocacy by human rights groups and other activists, and a decade of war by the United States and its allies — a war in which the need to uphold the rights of women has often been invoked — Afghan women remain trapped in a legal system that often punishes them for being the victims of brutal crimes.

My illiterate client told me of her experience going to court with her illegitimate daughter and not understanding the legal process. She was forced to represent herself after her Afghan lawyer failed to show up, yet the judges who presided over the case refused to allow her to speak. Instead, they berated Gulnaz for lying, insisting that women cannot get pregnant by having sex just once. This assertion was the basis for the 12-year sentence that was imposed, with a wrenching caveat: Marrying her attacker would allow her to be “free.”

Unfortunately, Gulnaz’s case is not an anomaly but represents the situation that more than half of the imprisoned women in Afghanistan find themselves in — locked up for moral crimes, according to a recent studyby the United Nations.

In Uncategorized on September 1, 2011 at 10:59

Bolivian Mennonites jailed for serial rapes
The convicted men were part of a 2,000-strong Mennonite community

A court in Bolivia has sentenced seven members of a reclusive conservative Christian group to 25 years in prison for raping more than 100 women.

The men, members of a Mennonite group, secretly sedated their victims before the sex attacks.

The victims’ lawyer said the 2000-strong Mennonite community where the rapes happened welcomed the sentence.

The group follows a strict moral code and rejects modern inventions such as cars and electricity.

An eighth man was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years for supplying the sedative used to drug the women.

The rapes happened in the Mennonite community of Manitoba, 150km (93 miles) north-east of the city of Santa Cruz.

Shocking crimes

The court heard that the men sprayed a substance derived from the belladonna plant normally used to anaesthetise cows through bedroom windows at night, sedating entire families.

They then raped the women and girls. The youngest victim was nine years old.

Mennonite Churches descend from Protestant communities in Europe
There are said to be some 1.5 million Mennonites worldwide
Mennonites follow the teachings of Menno Simons, a 16th Century religious leader from what is now the Netherlands
Recent figures suggest there are 15,400 Mennonites in Bolivia
The exact number of those raped is not clear. Some women had no recollection of being raped, while others feared being ostracised in the deeply conservative community, lawyer Oswaldo Rivera said.

Mr Rivera said almost 150 had taken part in the trial, but he feared there could be another 150 too ashamed to give evidence.

He said some feared they would not be able to find a husband if it was known they had been raped, as women are expected to abstain from sex until marriage.

Prosecutor Freddy Perez said colony elders suspected something was wrong when they wondered why one man was getting up so late in the mornings, and they decided to shadow him.

He was then spotted jumping through a window into one of the victim’s houses.

The BBC’s Mattia Cabitza in Santa Cruz said it proved difficult to gather evidence from the victims because of the community’s isolation and patriarchal structure.

The convicted men were also accused of threatening the fathers of some of the victims not to speak out.

Irreversible damage

Many of the victims speak only low German, the language of the Mennonite founding fathers, and have never learned Spanish.

There are some 30-40,000 Mennonites in Paraguay and Bolivia.

While many of them are indistinguishable from their neighbours and have religious beliefs very similar to mainline Protestant and Evangelical groups, others reject modern life and live in isolated communities.

Manitoba Colony, where the rapes happened, is an ultra-conservative community, with no paved roads or electricity.

Its members move around by horse-drawn buggy and dress in traditional Mennonite dress.

Mr Rivera welcomed the sentences but said he feared some of the women had suffered irreversible damage.

BBC

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