It is the second time in over a month that the newly-elected parliament voted to reject an amended Penal Code law which was passed by the government during parliament’s absence in 2001, stipulating harsher punishment for perpetrators of honour killings.

The lower house also decided to refer to its legal committee another law which gives women the right to divorce their husbands, which the senate had urged them to uphold.

"Sixty of the 85 deputies present in parliament voted to reject this temporarily because the amendments (made by the senate) were superficial and did not deal with the root of the issue," Islamist deputy Adab Saoud told AFP.

Islamists and conservatives said the laws violated religious traditions and would destroy families and values.

But the debate has not ended as representatives from the lower and upper houses of the government will have to meet to decide the fate of the law.

The issue of women’s rights, particularly honour killings, has been a highly charged issue between conservative and liberal sides of the political spectrum.

Murder cases carry stiff penalties in Jordan, but honour killers usually receive reduced sentences since their crimes are considered to be committed in “fits of rage” or as a “crime of passion”, sparked by “unlawful action” on the part of the victim.

There have been at least seven cases of honour killings in 2003.