JORDAN: Courts must be tougher on domestic violence
A girl from an impoverished family in the Jordan Valley.
AMMAN, 12 July 2006 (IRIN) - There has been a 20 per cent increase in recorded incidents of domestic violence in Jordan in 2005 over the previous year, said a senior official on Tuesday. Fadel Hmoud, head of the Family Protection Unit at the Public Security Department, said more than 1,800 cases of such incidents were recorded last year.
"Poverty, unemployment and lack of education provide fertile grounds for attacks and abuse of women and children,” said Hmoud, adding that many attacks, particularly sexual, were committed in poor areas by strangers, rather than family members. He noted that victims usually "do not come forward because they do not want to bring disgrace to their family”.
With this regard, UN officials say times are changing, so this increase in recorded cases does not necessarily reflect a rise in domestic violence. "Over the past few years, Jordanians have become more aware of their rights thanks to ongoing awareness campaigns by the government and civil society activists throughout the country," says Maha Hemsi, project officer in Early Childhood and Child Protection programmes at UNICEF.
"The Family Protection Unit was established in Amman in 2003 and has achieved great success because it has gained people's trust,” she says. “Now, it is expanding rapidly by opening branches in different parts of the country." Hemsi adds that her organisation provides financial and technical support to the project.
More than 95 per cent of the recorded abuse cases were committed by strangers, out of which 65 per cent were referred to courts, said Hmoud. But court hearings rarely translate into appropriate penalties. "The Penal Code is excellent,” says Hannan Al Thaher, a legal researcher in the policy and planning unit at the National Council For Family Affairs. “It provides protection to children. The problem lies in its application.”
Al Thaher believes judges should be "more sensitive" to child abuse and rape cases by imposing the maximum punishment – execution, in child rape cases – on those who commit such crimes. "If the father of an abused child forfeits his legal rights, the criminal gets the minimum sentence,” says Al Thaher. “That must be stopped because children are the ones who end up suffering for the rest of their lives."
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]