As a Jordanian man, I know exactly what “honor” defined by the Jordanian cultural heritage means. In my teen age, I had to pass through different emotional dilemmas regarding my relationship with my younger sister. On one hand I needed to assert my masculinity and “fit” in the Jordanian male macho sub culture which entails embracing “honor” as being the most important value that defines a man, and as being a characteristic that is attached to females and associated with their relationship with the opposite sex. One the other hand, I had a deep respect for my sister, her emotions, and her choices in life.
Coming from a middle class family with easy going non conservative parents, and as I grew out of my teen years, I was fortunate to break off the “honor” mentality, end my dilemma, and decide that my sister is more important to me than any social or cultural obligation. Sadly, not all Jordanian men are lucky as I am. Some do grow in much harsher conditions where social pressure on “honor” is much stronger and serious; strong enough to define aspects of their behavior through their life time.
The seriousness of the “honor” issue found a perfect match in Article 98 of the Jordanian Penal Code. The Article 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. A fit of fury is exactly what many Jordanians expects from a man who just found out that a woman relative has disgraced his family “honor”. Somehow this matching opened the doors to the murder of many Jordanian women.
“Murder In The Name Of Honor” is a recent book by Rana Al Husseni – a Jordanian Journalist and women rights activist – where she highlights her 16 years of reporting honor crimes in Jordan. Through the years, Rana was able to bring the attention of the Jordanian local community and the outer world to the horrible stories behind those murders. She succeeded in creating a strong movement of women non-governmental organizations which got backed by international pressure and support from the Jordanian Royal family to push the Jordanian government to do something about the current law.
It was only recently that we have started hearing about stronger stands from government officials against honor crimes. A week or so ago the Minister of Justice Ayman Odeh stated to the Jordan Times that “A crime is a crime. There is no such thing as honor crimes. All people are equal before the law”. His statement was accompanied by another one from a well known Muslim cleric, Abdul Rahman Ibdah, who said “Islam absolutely rejects the killing of others by individuals. There is nothing called ‘honor crimes’ in Islam”.
Jordan bloggers have also been covering honor crimes and showing dismay of the government for not being able to abolish the Article 98 of the penal code. They have also recently started a facebook group called “La sharaf fel Jareemeh” (No honor in crime). The group has over 900 members so far and is gaining popularity.
Any observer can see that there is a substantial shift in the Jordanian public opinion regarding the matter. The pressure of civil organizations, local and international community may lead to change in laws, but would that solve the problem? It may, only if accompanied with a change in some social values.