IM Swedish Development Partners: Women’s rights in Jordan’s legislation
Women’s right, Jordan law, Human rights
Gender justice and women’s rights issues is one of IM’s main focus areas worldwide, as every day discriminatory cultural, religious and legal practices based on gender stereotypes deny millions of women their human rights. IM has a history of supporting interventions that aim to strengthen people to challenge practices that prevent them from enjoying their human rights.
What is the current legal framework for women in Jordan?
IM: Jordan ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1992. However the country maintains reservations on the article 9 (2) (which is supposed to give equal rights to women with regard to nationality of children), to article 16 paragraph 1 (c) (same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution), (d) (same rights and responsibilities as parents), and (g) (same personal rights, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation). Jordan maintains its reservations on article 16 (1) (c) and (d) because these are not compatible with Shari’a provisions. In 2009, a Cabinet decision lifted its reservations on paragraph 4 of Article 15, and gave women freedom of mobility and choice of residence without consent of their husbands or other male family members.
With regards to women’s right, what are the key positive developments in Jordan?
IM: Jordan has seen notable progress in relation to gender equality. In recent years, the government has launched a progressive reform agenda to improve the rights of women. Summer 2017 was a particular step forwards, when the parliament voted the amendment of the controversial Article 98 that allowed ‘‘mitigating circumstances’’ over the honor crimes. It also abolished the controversial Article 308 of the Penal Code that allowed rapists to avoid prosecution if they married their victims.
Although the government made improvements in the legislations, the provision leaves a loophole. For example, article 340 allows mitigated sentences for those who murder their spouses after witnessing the adultery.
What progress should the government still make?
IM: In Jordan, violence against women is prevalent, in addition to domestic violence, sexual harassment at public spaces is widely spread.
The laws such as the Family Protection from Domestic Violence law and the Anti-trafficking law are falling short in providing actual protection for women, for example for survivors of rape. Besides, the definition of rape in the Penal Code does not meet international standards, nor does it consider rape within marriage. Additionally, the issue of honor killing remains, despite being less visible. According to press reports, about 20 women are killed in Jordan each year by male family members in so-called “family honor” crimes.
What changes should be done, at policy level?
IM: The Jordanian government should stop what is called the administrative detention, which is used as a protective measure for women considered to be at risk of being killed by a family member, and allows her indefinite detention under the country’s 1954 Crime Prevention Law. Under this law, some women spend years in administrative detention in Jweideh Correctional and Rehabilitation Center before being granted release, which usually requires signed assurances from their families that they will not be harmed. As a way out, many women have no options but to get married. Many of these women in administrative detention are rape survivors who, in addition to the damage and trauma inflicted by the rape, have to be under protective custody, or face the risk of being killed in the name of family ‘honor’.  While Jordan plans to open a shelter for honor crime potential victims– which is an improvement as they will not be held as though they are criminals, along with criminals- women will presumably still not be permitted to leave the shelter.
Another issue to tackle is the Jordanian Nationality Law, which does not allow Jordanian women married to foreign-born spouses to pass on their nationality to their spouses and children. In November 2014, the cabinet said it will direct government ministries to grant special privileges to non-citizen children of Jordanian women, including free education and access to health services in governmental institutions along with a new ID. The privileges, however, do not apply to children whose mothers have not resided in Jordan for a minimum of five years, and do not guarantee residency permits. Additionally, it was reported that the same privileges have largely not been implemented and that some non-citizen children who do not qualify for the ID card are now being shut out of services they could previously access, like education.
Finally, despite a minimum age of marriage set at 18, judges are allowed to approve marriage agreements for girls at 15 years’ old which contributes to the rise of child marriage in Jordan, including in the Syrian refugee community. The 2017 Higher Population Council report on child marriage in Jordan revealed that marrying off girls under 18 years is increasing in Jordanian society (the ratio rose from 13.7% to 18.1% in 2015). It is particularly the case for Syrian girls, whose families largely use early marriage as a way to financially cope with exile. Marriage is seen as the only option for their daughters to be safe and provided for, and a way to alleviate the economic burden on the household.
What is the situation in terms of women representation and participation in the society
IM: According to the Global Gender Gap Index, Jordan is also just ranking 135th out of 144 countries, witnessing falling scores from 2011. Despite having an extremely well educated female population (with 94% literacy and stronger university attendance than men), women are still underrepresented in most sectors. Only about 13% of Jordanian women currently participate in the workforce, with the majority of the unemployed being university graduates.
When it comes to political participation in Parliament, a number of seats has been reserved for women as part of the quota, those seats have been increased during successive reforms of the electoral law and now stand at 15 seats (one for each governorate and each of the three Badia regions). In the private sector, resistance to hiring women are added to discriminatory practices (i.e. gender gap in terms of salary and promotion) and circumvention of legally binding provisions, such as paid maternity leaves or child care. Furthermore, significant family and network pressure are also pushing women away from employment.
What are IM and its partners doing to address these issues?
IM: IM has a partnership with Jordanian women’s Union to support a hotline which provides psychosocial and legal aid for children and women victims of violence in Madaba and Deirallah. IM is working with Arab women organization in promoting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment through partnershisp with women’s organizations on national and local levels. Finally, IM also runs economic empowerment programs for women with grassroots community based organizations in rural areas.
IM Swedish Development Partner is an active rights-based organisation, empowering partners and civil society actors through organisational and capacity development and advocacy since 1966. Through its partnership with seventeen local and regional organisations in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine, IM Swedish Development Partner focuses on preventive health, quality primary and secondary education, economic empowerment and strengthening civil society to guarantee that every girl, boy, woman and man attain their economic, social and cultural rights to enhance their ability in leading and sustaining a dignified life.
pictures © IM
-  https://www.unicef.org/gender/files/Jordan-Gender-Eqaulity-Profile-2011.pdf; http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW/C/JOR/6&Lang=en
-  http://achrs.org/english/index.php/arab-and-international-mainmenu-46/arab-and-international/142-participate-in-the-debate-on-the-cedaw-in-jordan.html
-  http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/mps-approve-amendments-controversial-article-98
-  https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/04/jordan-parliament-passes-human-rights-reforms
-  http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/administrative-detention-women-protection-illegal%E2%80%99-activists-say
-  http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2017.pdf
-  World Economic Forum, 2017, “The global gender gap report 2017” http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2017.pdf
-  Freedom House, 2016, “Why Jordan is backsliding on gender equality”
-  A 25% quota for women’s representation on municipality councils and 15% for governorate level