On April 23, Jordan’s cabinet revoked a law that allows rapists to avoid jail terms if they marry their victims. Parliament is due to vote on ratifying the change in May, the latest move in the Middle East against similar laws:
Between 2010 and 2013, 159 rapists in Jordan took advantage of the law, which was cast as the lesser evil in brutally patriarchal societies. Supporters argued that marriage protected the victims’ reputation and prevented “honor killings.”
Public outrage has led to change: Morocco scrapped its version of the law following the suicide of a 16-year-old who was forced to marry her rapist in 2012. In 2016, mass protests led Turkey to withdraw a bill that would pardon men convicted of sex with underage girls if they married.
At least six countries in the region, including Tunisia, Libya, and Lebanon, retain the loophole, a legacy of the French colonial era. Activists say nations must be pressured to abolish these kinds of patriarchal customs.
This appears in the May 15, 2017 issue of TIME.