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Middle East

Jordanians take to social media aiming to end domestic violence

An activism initiative created by the UN aims to end violence against women and raise awareness of LGBT rights. Jordanians on social media have promoted the campaign, as domestic violence is a major issue in the kingdom.

Even as one of the more liberal countries in the Arab world, Jordan still struggles with issues of gender equality and many Jordanians this week took to social media to support the launch of  UN campaign called "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence" to raise awareness of these issues.

"Women's and girls' lives matter and only by working together can we bring lasting change, only by joining forces can we end violence against women," UN Jordan representative Ziad Sheikh told "The Jordan Times."

"Stop the killing of women and girls! Start the change by signing the petition," The Jordanian National Commission of Women tweeted. The organization has started a petition calling for urgent action on domestic violence - a matter the Jordanian government often considers to be beyond its legal purview. The commission claimed there have been 38 registered cases of honor killings in Jordanian families and that "the legislative branch promotes violence against women."

In the Middle East, the family's honor is very important. Families try to avoid any act that will bring shame and will harm the family's image in the eyes of society. Although divorce is permitted in the country's majority religion, Islam, cultural stigma means the act has brought shame on the family. Honor killings and domestic violence are sometimes the results.

The United States Agency for International Development tweeted an animated video showing a Jordanian woman who told her mother she had been beaten. Her mother was outraged until she heard it was her daughter's husband. She then told her daughter that she should go home and cook for her husband before he divorces her and the gossip ruins the image of their family. 

Jordanian law

One of the largest controversies surrounding domestic violence involves Jordanian Article 340 in the penal code. This law sets out certain conditions that can reduce the sentence of a perpetrator of an honor killing. Article 340, which was last amended in 2001, allows for the perpetrator to received a reduced sentence if the victim had committed adultery.

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Article 97, meanwhile, describes how much the sentence will be reduced. For an honor killing or instance of domestic violence where the victim has committed adultery, the perpetrator will not be executed or be given life imprisonment. The punishment ranges from six months to two years. Activists want the sentences to be raised and the articles to be amended. Also, these articles frequently benefit men over women.

The UN has examined Jordan's policies and found that while the country is progressive in many areas, such as education and employment, laws regarding adultery represent the biggest roadblock toward gender equality. 

LGBT rights

The UN's 16 days campaign has also raised awareness towards the country's LGBT community. Neither same-sex marriage nor same-sex civil unions are allowed in Jordan, and LGBT citizens do not share their gender in public. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center showed 97 percent of Jordanians believe society should not accept homosexuality. In June, the US ambassador to Jordan, Alice Wells, attended an LGBT event, sparking outrage in the country. 

Organizations such as LGBT Jordan attempt to raise awareness towards violence against the country's LGBT community, but these organizations are not recognized by the government. Jordan is, however, one of the few Middle Eastern countries where homosexuality isn't illegal.

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