Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 October 2020

Jordanians outraged by murder of teen girl by brother for joining Facebook

A man in his mid-20s was charged with killing his 14-year-old sister for using his phone to start a social media account, with thousands taking to Twitter to call for him to be punished severely

Downtown Amman, Jordan. EPA
Downtown Amman, Jordan. EPA

The killing of a 14-year-old girl by her brother for setting up a Facebook account has caused outrage in Jordan, sparking calls for the perpetrator to be executed.

A man in his mid-20s has been charged with “intentional killing” for fatally stabbing his sister on Friday after she created a Facebook account using his phone, according to local media reports.

In some conservative circles it is believed a woman's honour is at stake as a result of using social media due to the perception that they are platforms for inappropriate behaviour.

“Social media has become a space for meeting people and where a lot of relationships are formed these days,” secretary general of the Jordanian National Committee for Women's Affairs, Salma Al Nemes, told The National.

Dr Al Nemes said that initial media reports had attributed the act of violence to the pressure of the lockdown, essentially providing the perpetrator with an excuse for committing a violent crime.

“I’ve said from the beginning, the lockdown will contribute to a rise in domestic violence, but in this specific case the underlying reasons behind it are broader and are related to behaviours that have been committed for tens of years,” she said.

“We need to look at this beyond the issue of the lockdown, taking into consideration the discourse in the media.”

When the incident occurred, the suspect had become enraged by his sister’s actions and they had engaged in a heated argument. He then grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed her once in the back, reported The Jordan Times.

The victim was rushed to hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

Although the brother initially fled from the family home, he was later located and admitted to the crime. The case was transferred to the Public Criminal Prosecutor, according to a statement published by the Public Security Directorate.

He remains detained at a correctional and rehabilitation centre.

The crime garnered a polarised response across social media, from support for the perpetrator to the hashtag “#نطالب_باعدام_قاتل_اخته” (we demand the execution of the sister's killer) trending on Twitter.

“Finally people are talking,” Amman-based feminist Reem Saiff tweeted, alongside screenshots of online reports of the crime.

“The home is the most dangerous place for a girl, her family is the greatest threat to her life,” she also tweeted.

Dr Al Nemes said one of the major issues in cases of violence against women is Jordan’s legal framework. Several articles in the penal code provide judges with the discretion to significantly reduce prison sentences, which means they often do not act as a deterrent.

One example includes the victim’s family requesting a lenient sentence, which would result in them being financially compensated by the perpetrator’s family.

However, as in this case, if the perpetrator and victim are from the same family – which is a common occurrence, according to Dr Al Nemes – they can sign a form to reduce the sentence.

“We need to change the legal framework so this person is punished and does not receive a reduced sentence,” she said.

“We’ve demanded for many years for this to be amended but had no response from the government.”

She believes a crime like this should receive life imprisonment, but does not support the death penalty, despite more than 19,000 tweets reportedly using the hashtag calling for it. Such a strong reaction is rarely seen for cases of violence against women.

Asma Khader, a lawyer and founder of the Solidarity Is Global Institute, denounced the crime and agreed the perpetrator should receive a severe punishment.

“We want him to be trialled as a murderer and to receive a serious punishment because he committed a horrible crime, but we are against the death penalty,” she said.

“It’s not acceptable that a man feels he has the power to forbid his wife, daughter or sister to use social media. This [perceived] power over a woman is very dangerous and it’s one of the root causes of gender-based violence.”

Updated: May 15, 2020 10:03 AM

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