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Jordan honor killings draw tough response. Finally

Are the days of convicted murderers receiving nominal three-month jail terms over?

“Here in Jordan, as a whole society there are some serious changes within the whole community about [attitudes] related to women’s issues, even the judiciary system,” said Ihssan Barakat, a judge in the court of appeals and chairwoman for the Arab Women’s Legal Network. “They are accepting any new changes that give [women] better access to justice.”

She said that despite the recent changes in how honor crimes were handled in Jordan, there had been no official modifications to the legal system. However, she was doubtful the system would see any backsliding to previous sentencing practices.

Though the overall number of honor crimes has not dropped, Enaam Asha, a member of the board directors at the Sisterhood is Global Institute in Jordan, said that her organization had begun to see a slight cultural shift in how people handled incidents that could have previously resulted in honor crimes.

Now, when a young woman had relations with a man before marriage, rather than escalating to violence, Asha said some families were willing to resolve the situation through non-violent methods, such as marrying the couple. Additionally, she noted, the local media had begun reporting on honor crimes in such a way that was empathetic toward the victim. In the past, many news reports would condemn the murdered woman.

The longer prison sentences “reflect the change in the mentality of the judges in handling these kinds of cases and more importantly the change in the social perspective,” Asha said. “Maybe the number of honor crimes is not decreasing ... but through our daily interaction with people working on this issue, we were able to spot that there is a difference in how people handle such issues. People are becoming more understanding to such cases, both on the perpetrator’s part and the victim’s part, and also the society and the families around them.”

Husseini and other activists hope that as word of the new sentencing procedure spreads, more people will continue to seek other means for resolving these situations and the number of honor killings may begin to fall.

“Men should know, the ones wanting to kill their female relatives, if they do kill them, they will end up spending a long time in prison,” Husseini said.